Date of Award


Access Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering Physics


Physical Sciences

Committee Chair

Dr. Sergey Drakunov

First Committee Member

Dr. Karen Gaines

Second Committee Member

Dr. William MacKunis


Modeling biological processes, such as algae growth, is an area of ongoing research. The ability to understand the multitude of parameters that influence this system provides a platform for better understanding the dynamics of microalgae growth. Empirical modeling efforts look to understand sources of driving nutrients that influence harmful algal blooms (HABs). These harmful algal blooms are dense aggregates that have an increasingly negative impact on local economics, marine and freshwater systems, and public health. They result from a high influx of nitrogen and nutrients that drive the algae biomass to exponentially grow. This growth blocks out the sun, potentially releases dangerous toxins, and suffocates marine life, damaging ecosystems, especially in Florida.

Modeling microalgae behavior and growth is complex due to its nonlinear behavior and coupled variables. Recently, cultivating oleaginous microalgae for biofuel production has been another region of ongoing research, especially application of observer theory to estimate internal parameters that are not easily measured in algal systems. Linear observer theory has generally been applied to algae growth systems to estimate internal parameters that are beyond hardware sensor capabilities, but they are still severely limited. Nonlinear observer theory application to biological systems is still relatively new. This thesis explores the application of a nonlinear observer based off sliding mode to an algae system. Sliding mode is derived from modern control theory and is based off variable structure control. An algae system is modeled using the widely accepted Droop model for algae growth and a linear and nonlinear sliding mode observer is developed for the system to estimate internal nitrogen within the algae biomass.