The growth of the hydrocarbon-rich alga Botryococcus braunii was studied under “air-lift” conditions using batch and continuous cultures. Large variations in the physiological state of B. braunii were achieved in batch cultures and in continuous cultures with various dilution rates. The possible effects of these variations upon hydrocarbons (nature, relative abundance, location, level, productivity) and also on the production of exocellular polysaccharides were examined. The relationships between the physiological state of B. braunii and its hydrocarbon and polysaccharide production were discussed and compared with those generally observed in unicellular algae. The factors giving rise to the transition from high to low productivity stages were considered. To this end we examined, at first, the variations in cell ultrastructure and the resulting degeneration occurring during batch cultures. Afterward the parallel changes in some parameters of the medium (pH, phosphate level) were determined and their possible relationships with B. braunii growth and hydrocarbon production were discussed. The main features of phosphate nutrition in B. braunii and its effects on hydrocarbons were finally examined.
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