The high biodiversity of microalgae opens numerous applications, such as in food, feed, cosmetics, health, green chemistry or for biofuel purpose. Microalgae can produce energy rich substances such as lipids for biodiesel or biokerosene production, hydrogen by water photolysis, high valuable products and sugars for biomass fermentation (methane) or gasification. Production processes imply major constraints, the most relevant being certainly the need to obtain a sustainable production involving low energy consumption and environmental impact.
Production technologies of photosynthetic microorganisms are characterized by a wide diversity, from open systems to closed technologies, each having specific advantages and disadvantages. Closed photobioreactor technologies are found to offer many advantages: better control of growth conditions, culture confinement enlarging the choice of strains and allowing a high control of process input / output (CO2 fixation, recovery of O2, low water evaporation).
In this context, it appears that the use of photosynthetic microorganisms for ECLSS and the development of large-scale microalgae production processes (for biofuels and fine chemicals productions) share common objectives: intensified production, high productivity, stability, optimization of culture conditions, high level of understanding…etc. The cultivation system plays here a key-role, as confirmed in several studies. It directly influences critical factors, like the need of resources, the productivities, the controllability, the global robustness of the process and the species to be cultivated.