Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 85, Issue 3, pp 525–534 | Cite as

Development of an attached microalgal growth system for biofuel production

  • Michael B. Johnson
  • Zhiyou WenEmail author
Biotechnological Products and Process Engineering


Algal biofuel production has gained a renewed interest in recent years but is still not economically feasible due to several limitations related to algal culture. The objective of this study is to explore a novel attached culture system for growing the alga Chlorella sp. as biodiesel feedstock, with dairy manure wastewater being used as growth medium. Among supporting materials tested for algal attachment, polystyrene foam led to a firm attachment, high biomass yield (25.65 g/m2, dry basis), and high fatty acid yield (2.31 g/m2). The biomass attached on the supporting material surface was harvested by scraping; the residual colonies left on the surface served as inoculum for regrowth. The algae regrowth on the colony-established surface resulted in a higher biomass yield than that from the initial growth on fresh surface due to the downtime saved for initial algal attachment. The 10-day regrowth culture resulted in a high biodiesel production potential with a fatty acid methyl esters yield of 2.59 g/m2 and a productivity of 0.26 g/m−2 day−1. The attached algal culture also removed 61–79% total nitrogen and 62–93% total phosphorus from dairy manure wastewater, depending on different culture conditions. The biomass harvested from the attached growth system (through scraping) had a water content of 93.75%, similar to that harvested from suspended culture system (through centrifugation). Collectively, the attached algal culture system with polystyrene foam as a supporting material demonstrated a good performance in terms of biomass yield, biodiesel production potential, ease to harvest biomass, and physical robustness for reuse.


Algal biofuel Attached growth Chlorella Lipids Microalgae mass culture Waste water treatment 



The authors gratefully acknowledge Virginia Tech Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and USDA CSREES (2006-38909-03484) for their financial support of this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Systems EngineeringVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

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