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Efficient microalgal biofuel production is a complex process. The bioreactor, algae and environment together comprise of a dynamic system which needs to be understood and controlled intelligently and automatically.

Mathematical modelling is used to understand the interactions between the incoming light over the course of each day/year, nutrients supplied, waste products generated, life cycle, metabolic state of the cells, operation of the bioreactor in compensating for these factors to maximise the yield of algal biomass.

Individual aspects of the system can be modelled and these models then interact to provide both analysis and control of the whole system.

Modelling contributes to:

• Analysis of the light regime impinging on the bioreactor over the course of days, months and years under dynamic weather conditions and a given climate.

• Understanding the metabolic systems of the algae as they respond to environmental conditions and changing nutrient loads.

• Detection of unstable states and impacts on the system (for example, from predators or pathogens) enabling early action to be taken to restabilise the system.

• Economic analysis of the best times and methods for biomass harvesting and processing.

• Life cycle analysis for energy balance and ecological sustainability.