ID: 4354

Automated cultivation of biomass

Festo presents a path to the circular economy at the Hannover Messe: Technology and biology merge.

Algae are small climate savers. Even in their natural state they are extremely efficient photosynthesisers and absorb ten times more carbon dioxide (CO₂) than land plants. In bioreactors equipped with appropriate sensors, control technology and automation, the efficiency of algae can be increased to a hundred times that of land plants. This shows that they have a significant potential for a climate-neutral circular economy. With the PhotoBionicCell research project, Festo showed a first bioreactor at Hannover Messe 2022. This year, the company is presenting the next step on the road to industrialising the biological transformation.

Our world is changing to an unprecedented degree. World population is growing and the consequences of climate change are already being felt. We will have a liveable future only if people, animals and the plant world live in harmony. This is why at Festo we consider the bioeconomy the economic system of the future. “We need to integrate nature into automation technology. Only when technology and biology merge can we tackle climate change and make the circular economy a reality. By cultivating biomass on a large scale through our automation technology, Festo is making an important contribution to this,” explained Dr Nina Gaißert, Corporate Portfolio Projects and BioTech Automation during her keynote at the Hannover Messe Press Preview.

Biology as inspiration

That is why the bionics team is increasingly working on photosynthesis. At Hannover Messe 2022, Festo presented its first bioreactor with the PhotoBionicCell project. This year, the company is presenting the next step on the way to industrialising the biological transformation. Innovative bioreactors can be used to automatically cultivate algae and control their growth. The algae cells, through photosynthesis in their chloroplasts, convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and chemical energy carriers or organic recyclable materials. With automation technology from Festo, e.g. for optimal gassing and mixing, algae can absorb one hundred times more carbon dioxide than land plants such as trees or maize.

Biological recyclables for climate-neutral end products

As part of their metabolic processes, algae produce fatty acids, colour pigments and surfactants. These can be used as the raw materials for the production of medicines, food, plastics or cosmetics. Unlike petroleum-based products, the biobased end products can usually be biodegraded and, in keeping with an overall circular economy, always recycled in a climate-neutral manner. For example, the production of a shampoo container requires about one litre of petroleum. If the shampoo bottle is incinerated after use, it releases an additional three kilogrammes of CO2 and thus has a negative CO2 balance. If bio-plastic based on algae is used instead, three kilogrammes of CO2 are absorbed, which are released again when the bottle is disposed of. Thus, the cycle is in balance.


Festo is a global player and an independent family-owned company with headquarters in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany. Festo has set standards in industrial automation technology and technical education ever since its establishment, thereby making a contribution to sustainable development of the environment, the economy and society. The company supplies pneumatic and electrical automation technology to 300,000 customers of factory and process automation in over 35 industries. The LifeTech sector with medical technology and laboratory automation is becoming increasingly important. The products and services are available in 176 countries. With about 20,700 employees in over 250 branch offices in 61 countries worldwide, Festo achieved a turnover of around €3.36 billion in 2021. Each year around 7% of this turnover is invested in research and development. In this learning company, 1.5 % of turnover is invested in basic and further training. Festo Didactic SE is a leading provider of technical education and training and offers its customers worldwide comprehensive digital and physical learning solutions in the industrial environment.

© Festo SE & Co. KG
PhotoBionicCell: Algae can be automatically cultivated and their growth controlled with the bioreactor. 
© Festo SE & Co. KG
In bioreactors like the PhotoBionicCell equipped with appropriate sensors, control technology and automation, the efficiency of algae can be increased to a hundred times that of land plants. 
© Festo SE & Co. KG
Optimal process stability: 24-hour operation with monitoring of all relevant data from multiple photobioreactors
© Festo SE & Co. KG
Sail-shaped surface collectors for optimised light absorption and regulation of the heat environment
© Festo SE & Co. KG
Valve sensor unit for controlling the circulation in the surface collectors
© Festo SE & Co. KG
Automation system CPX-E: Controls all processes in the tank and communicates with the cloud
© Festo SE & Co. KG
Quantum sensor: Optical real-time determination of biomass
© Festo SE & Co. KG
Augmented reality application for mobile devices
© Festo SE & Co. KG
Dr Nina Gaißert explains the PhotoBionicCell.

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