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The culture of coccolithophorid algae for carbon dioxide bioremediation

Moheimani, Navid RezaORCID: 0000-0003-2310-4147 (2005) The culture of coccolithophorid algae for carbon dioxide bioremediation. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The culture of coccolithophorid algae is an attractive option for sequestration or recycling of CO2 as they can fix carbon by photosynthesis as well as in calcium carbonate scales known as coccoliths. They also produce high amounts of lipids which have a potential application as a renewable fuel.

Five species of coccolithophorids (Pleurochrysis carterae, CCMP647, Pleurochrysis sp. CCMP1211, Gephyrocapsa oceanica CS-335/2, Emiliania huxleyi CCMP371, and Emiliania huxleyi CS-369) were screened for their ability to grow at high temperature. All species grew up to 28oC except E. huxleyi CS-369. However, Pleurochrysis sp. CCMP 1211 which was found to clump and can therefore not be recommended for large-scale cultivation. The salinity tolerance of these species was also examined.

Growth of P. carterae, G. oceanica, and E. huxleyi in laboratory scale closed photobioreactors (plate, carboy, airlift, and tubular photobioreactors) showed the plate photobioreactor to be the best closed cultivation system. The highest productivities were achieved by P. carterae in the plate photobioreactor and were 0.54 g.L-1.d-1, 0.12 g.L-1.d-1, 0.06 g.L-1.d-1 for total dry weight, lipid and CaCO3 respectively. The growth of P. carterae and E. huxleyi was also examined in an outdoor raceway pond. The E. huxleyi culture was easily contaminated resulting in the loss of the culture in less than three weeks, but P. carterae grew well over a period of 13 months. The overall total dry weight productivity of P. carterae was 0.19 g.L-1.d-1 with lipid and CaCO3 contents of up to 33% and 10% of dry weight respectively. There was little protozoan and bacterial contamination. Medium pH increased to pH 11 during the day and was found to be a reliable variable for maintaining the health of the culture. A maximum pH achieved during the day of less than pH 8.5 indicated the imminent collapse of the culture. Heavy rain and low temperature were the main reasons for culture loss in mid winter, whereas high temperature during summer favoured P. carterae growth. A comparison of the growth of P. carterae and Dunaliella salina MUR8 in the raceway ponds showed no significant differences between these two species with regard to areal total dry weight productivity and lipid content.

The effects of several limiting factors were also examined. A reduction in medium pH resulting from CO2 addition inhibited the growth of E. huxleyi in the plate photobioreactor, whereas P. carterae growth and productivities increased in the pH range of pH 7.7 to 8.0 in the plate photobioreactor and pH 9.1 to 9.6 in the outdoor raceway pond. The best operational pond depth for outdoor raceway culture of P. carterae was between 16 cm and 21 cm. Early morning temperatures, especially during the winter, highly affected the growth of P. carterae in the raceway pond, whereas artificially increasing the medium temperature improved the health of the culture but resulted in little increase in productivity. Photosynthesis of P. carterae was found to be highly inhibited by high oxygen concentration in the medium irrespective of temperature or irradiance.

An economic model of P. carterae in a 63 ha raceway plant resulted in a cost for the biomass of between 7.35 Aus$.Kg-1 and 14.17 Aus$.Kg-1 depending on the harvesting method used.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Supervisor(s): Borowitzka, Michael
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