Algal biomass refineries for sustainable transportation fuels, in particular biodiesel, will benefit from algal strain enhancements to improve biomass and lipid productivity. Specifically, the supply of inorganic carbon to microalgal cultures represents an area of great interest due to the potential for improved growth of microalgae and the possibility for incorporation with CO2 mitigation processes. Combinations of bicarbonate (HCO3 −) salt addition and application of CO2 to control pH have shown compelling increases in growth rate and lipid productivity of fresh water algae. Here, focus was placed on the marine organism, Nannochloropsis gaditana, to investigate growth and lipid accumulation under various strategies of enhanced inorganic carbon supply. Three gas application strategies were investigated: continuous sparging of atmospheric air, continuous sparging of 5% CO2 during light hours until nitrogen depletion, and continuous sparging of atmospheric air supplemented with 5% CO2 for pH control between 8.0 and 8.3. These gas sparging schemes were combined with addition of low concentrations (5 mM) of sodium bicarbonate at inoculation and high concentration (50 mM) of sodium bicarbonate amendments just prior to nitrogen depletion. The optimum scenario observed for growth of N. gaditana under these inorganic carbon conditions was controlling pH with 5% CO2 on demand, which increased both growth rate and lipid accumulation. Fatty acid methyl esters were primarily comprised of C16:0 (palmitic) and C16:1 (palmitoleic) aliphatic chains. Additionally, the use of high concentration (50 mM) of bicarbonate amendments further improved lipid content (up to 48.6%) under nitrogen deplete conditions when paired with pH-controlled strategies.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
A special thank you to all members of the MSU Algal Biofuels Group for their introspective discourse on algal biofuel-related topics.
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- Fatty acid methyl ester (FAME)
- Inorganic carbon
- Nannochloropsis gaditana
- Nitrogen limitation