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Keywords:

  • biodiesel;
  • bioreactor;
  • Chlorella protothecoides;
  • heterotrophic cultivation;
  • lipids;
  • transesterification

Abstract

An integrated approach of biodiesel production from heterotrophic Chlorella protothecoides focused on scaling up fermentation in bioreactors was reported in this study. Through substrate feeding and fermentation process controls, the cell density of C. protothecoides achieved 15.5 g L−1 in 5 L, 12.8 g L−1 in 750 L, and 14.2 g L−1 in 11,000 L bioreactors, respectively. Resulted from heterotrophic metabolism, the lipid content reached 46.1%, 48.7%, and 44.3% of cell dry weight in samples from 5 L, 750 L, and 11,000 L bioreactors, respectively. Transesterification of the microalgal oil was catalyzed by immobilized lipase from Candidia sp. 99–125. With 75% lipase (12,000 U g−1, based on lipid quantity) and 3:1 molar ratio of methanol to oil batch-fed at three times, 98.15% of the oil was converted to monoalkyl esters of fatty acids in 12 h. The expanded biodiesel production rates were 7.02 g L−1, 6.12 g L−1, and 6.24 g L−1 in 5 L, 750 L, and 11,000 L bioreactors, respectively. The properties of biodiesel from Chlorella were comparable to conventional diesel fuel and comply with the US Standard for Biodiesel (ASTM 6751). These results suggest that it is feasible to expand heterotrophic Chlorella fermentation for biodiesel production at the industry level. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2007; 98: 764–771. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.