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Microalgae are a sustainable source of lipids. A commonly used strategy for lipid accumulation in microalgae is a two-step batch cultivation, with a growth phase followed by a nitrogen starvation phase. A problem with this process is the decrease in photosynthetic efficiency during the nitrogen starvation phase, which leads to low lipid productivities. In this research, a new process strategy was studied with the aim to improve lipid productivity of the microalgae Nannochloropsis gaditana. The nitrogen concentrations were chosen to assure consumption of most part of the nitrogen during the night. An improvement of the photosystem II maximum quantum yield and an increase in the dry weight and TAG concentration was achieved from day 7 of nitrogen starvation onwards when the culture was fed with nitrogen each night compared to a culture without nitrogen addition. Consequently, the time-average TAG yield on light was also higher after 7 days of nitrogen starvation. However, since the maximal time-averaged triacylglycerol (TAG) yield on light was reached after 3 days of nitrogen starvation, the improved photosynthetic activity did not lead to an increase of the maximal time-averaged TAG yield on light. The culture with nitrogen addition had a higher protein concentration (1.1 compared to 0.7 g L−1), showing that the added nitrogen was mainly used for protein production. A higher chlorophyll a content (2.0 compared to 0.8 μg mg−1) showed improved photosystem and that a small part of nitrogen was used for chlorophyll a. Small nightly nitrogen additions during batch cultivation of nitrogen starved N. gaditana did result in improvement in photosystem II maximal quantum yield, biomass concentration, TAG production and a higher time-averaged maximal TAG yield on light, after 7 days of nitrogen starvation.
- Biomass composition
- Nannochloropsis gaditana
- Nitrogen addition during night
- Nitrogen starvation