A matrix of photobioreactors integrated with metabolic sensors was used to examine the combined impact of light and temperature variations on the growth and physiology of the biofuel candidate microalgal species Nannochloropsis oculata. The experiments were performed with algal cultures maintained at a constant 20°C versus a 15°C to 25°C diel temperature cycle, where light intensity also followed a diel cycle with a maximum irradiance of 1920 µmol photons m(-2) s(-1). No differences in algal growth (Chlorophyll a) were found between the two environmental regimes; however, the metabolic processes responded differently throughout the day to the change in environmental conditions. The variable temperature treatment resulted in greater damage to photosystem II due to the combined effect of strong light and high temperature. Cellular functions responded differently to conditions before midday as opposed to the afternoon, leading to strong hysteresis in dissolved oxygen concentration, quantum yield of photosystem II and net photosynthesis. Overnight metabolism performed differently, probably as a result of the temperature impact on respiration. Our photobioreactor matrix has produced novel insights into the physiological response of Nannochloropsis oculata to simulated environmental conditions. This information can be used to predict the effectiveness of deploying Nannochloropsis oculata in similar field conditions for commercial biofuel production.