A novel one-stage cultivation/fermentation strategy for improved biogas production with microalgal biomass.

The use of alga biomass for biogas generation has been studied for over fifty years but until today, several distinct features, like inefficient degradation and low C/N ratios, limit the applicability of algal biomass for biogas production in larger scale. In this work we investigated a novel, one-stage combined cultivation/fermentation strategy including inherently progressing nitrogen starvation conditions to generate improved microalgal biomass substrates. For this strategy, comparable low amounts of nitrogen fertilizers were applied during cultivation and no additional enzymatic, chemical or physical pretreatments had to be performed. The results of this study demonstrate that progressing nitrogen limitation leads to continuously increasing C/N ratios of the biomass up to levels of 24-26 for all three tested alga strains (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Parachlorella kessleri and Scenedesmus obliquus). Importantly, the degradation efficiency of the algal cells increased with progressing starvation, leading to strain-specific cell disintegration efficiencies of 35%-100% during the fermentation process. Nitrogen limitation treatment resulted in a 65% increase of biogas yields for C. reinhardtii biomass (max. 698±23mL biogas g(-1) VS) when compared to replete conditions. For P. kessleri and S. obliquus, yields increased by 94% and 106% (max. 706±39mL and 586±36mL biogas g(-1) VS, respectively). From these results we conclude that this novel one-stage cultivation strategy with inherent nitrogen limitation can be used as a pretreatment for microalgal biomass generation, in order to produce accessible substrates with optimized C/N ratios for the subsequent anaerobic fermentation process, thus increasing methane production and avoiding the risk of ammonia inhibition effects within the fermenter.
AuthorsViktor Klassen, Olga Blifernez-Klassen, Yoep Hoekzema, Jan H Mussgnug, Olaf Kruse
JournalJournal of biotechnology (J Biotechnol) Vol. 215 Pg. 44-51 (Dec 10 2015) ISSN: 1873-4863 [Electronic] Netherlands
PMID26022425 (Publication Type: Journal Article)
CopyrightCopyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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