An economically feasible microalgal lipid industry heavily relies on the selection of suitable strains. Because microalgae lipid content increases under a range of adverse conditions (e.g. nutrient deprivation, high light intensity), photosynthetic activity is usually strongly reduced. As a consequence, lipid productivity rapidly declines overtime, after reaching a maximum within the first days of cultivation. The microalgae Chlorella vulgaris, Chlorococcum littorale, Nannochloropsis oculata, Nannochloropsis sp., Neochloris oleoabundans, Stichococcus bacillaris and Tetraselmis suecica were compared on fatty acid content and productivity, and also on photosynthetic activity under nitrogen (N) starvation. Cultures in N-replete conditions were used as reference. Photosystem II (PSII) maximumefficiency was followed during the experiment, as proxy for the change in photosynthetic activity of the cells. Strains with a high capacity for both lipid accumulation as well as high photosynthetic activity under N starvation exhibited a high lipid productivity over time. Among the tested strains, Nannochloropsis sp. showed highest fatty acid content (45%w/w) and productivity (238 mg L-1 day-1) aswell as PSII maximum efficiency, demonstrating to be the most suitable strain, of those tested, for lipid production. This study highlights that for microalgae, maintaining a high photosynthetic efficiency during stress is the key to maintain high fatty acid productivities overtime and should be considered when selecting strains for microalgal lipid production.
- biodiesel production
- nutrient stress