Performance of Chlorella sorokiniana under simulated extreme winter conditions

M. Cuaresma, M.F. Buffing, M.G.J. Janssen, C.V. Lobato, R.H. Wijffels

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42 Citations (Scopus)


High annual microalgae productivities can only be achieved if solar light is efficiently used through the different seasons. During winter the productivity is low because of the light and temperature conditions. The productivity and photosynthetic efficiency of Chlorella sorokiniana were assessed under the worst-case scenario found during winter time in Huelva, south of Spain. The maximum light intensity (800 µmol photons m-2 s-1) and temperature (20°C) during winter were simulated in a lab-scale photobioreactor with a short light-path of 14 mm. Chemostat conditions were applied and the results were compared with a temperature-controlled situation at 38°C (optimal growth temperature for C. sorokiniana). When temperature was optimal the highest productivity was found at a dilution rate of 0.18 h-1 (P v¿=¿0.28 g Kg-1 h-1), and the biomass yield on light energy was high (Y x,E¿=¿1.2 g¿mol-1 photons supplied). However, at suboptimal temperature, the specific growth rate of C. sorokiniana was surprisingly low, not being able to support continuous operation at a dilution rate higher than 0.02 h-1. The slow metabolism under suboptimal temperature resulted in a decline of the light energy requirements of the cells. Consequently, the maximum winter irradiance was experienced as excessive, leading to a low photosynthetic efficiency and productivity (Y x,E¿=¿0.5 g mol-1 photons supplied, P v¿=¿0.1 g Kg-1 h-1). At suboptimal temperature a higher carotenoid-to-chlorophyll ratio was observed indicating the activation of light-dissipating processes. We conclude that temperature control and/or light dilution during winter time will enhance the productivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-699
JournalJournal of Applied Phycology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • flat-plate photobioreactor
  • photosynthetic efficiency
  • spirulina-platensis
  • light-path
  • outdoor cultures
  • temperature
  • productivity
  • growth
  • microalgae
  • density

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