Screening for indigenous algae and optimisation of algal lipid yields for biodiesel production
The depletion of global energy supplies coupled with an ever increasing need for energy and the effects of global warming have warranted the search for alternate renewable sources of fuel such as biodiesel. First generation biofuels are not sustainable enough to meet long term global energy requirements and more recently there has been concern expressed as to the potential negative implication of crop based biofuels in the form of negative energy balances and potentially no greenhouse gas benefit due to land utilisation not being taken into account. Microalgae have shown great promise as a sustainable alternative to first generation biofuels. They have faster growth rates, have greater photosynthetic efficiencies, require minimal nutrients and are capable of growth in saline waters which are unsuitable for agriculture. Microalgae utilise a large fraction of solar energy and have the potential to produce 45 to 220 times higher amounts of triglycerides than terrestrial plants. The use of microalgae for biodiesel production requires strain selection, optimisation and viability testing to ascertain the most appropriate organism for large scale cultivation. This study focuses on bioprospecting for indigenous lipid producing microalgae, screening, selection and optimisation of growth and lipid yields with respect to nutrient limitation. Further we have ascertained the sustainability of a selected species of microalgae in open pond system. Chlorella sp. and Scenedesmus sp. were found to be dominant amongst the isolates. Strains we selected and underwent media selection and growth and lipid optimisation trials. BG11 media was selected as the most appropriate media for the growth of the selected Chlorella and Scenedesmus strains. Little variation in growth was observed for both cultures ten days into cultivation under varying nitrate concentrations. Phosphate optimum was shown to be 0.032g/l for Scenedesmus sp and 0.04g/l for Chlorella sp. Best lipid yield determined during exponential growth was achieved in cultures with 0.3g/L to 0.6g/L nitrate and phosphate as per BG11 medium. pH optimisation showed that cultures may be adapted to growth at higher pH over time. The optimum pH range for growth was determined to be narrow and was found to be between pH 10 and pH 11. Chlorella sp. was shown to be sustainable as a dominant culture in open pond system. Open pond systems however are prone to contamination by other species of microalgae within weeks of inoculation.