Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 839–851 | Cite as

Respirometry as a tool to quantify kinetic parameters of microalgal mixotrophic growth

  • Eleonora SforzaEmail author
  • Martina Pastore
  • Elena Barbera
  • Alberto Bertucco
Research Paper


Modeling microalgal mixotrophy is challenging, as the regulation of algal metabolism is affected by many environmental factors. A reliable tool to simulate microalgal behavior in complex systems, such as wastewaters, may help in setting the proper values of operative variables, provided that model parameters have been properly evaluated. In this work, a new respirometric protocol is proposed to quickly obtain the half-saturation constant values for several nutrients. The protocol was first verified for autotrophic exploitation of ammonium and phosphorus (Monod kinetics), as well as of light intensity (Haldane model), further elaborated on specific light supply basis. It was then applied to measure the kinetic parameters of heterotrophic growth. The half-saturation constants for nitrogen and phosphorus resulted comparable with autotrophic ones. The dependence on acetate and dissolved oxygen concentration was assessed. Mixotrophy was modeled as the combination of autotrophic/heterotrophic reactions, implemented in AQUASIM, and validated on batch curves with/without bubbling, under nutrient limitation, and different light intensities. It was shown that the reliability of the proposed respirometric protocol is useful to measure kinetic parameters for nutrients, and therefore to perform bioprocess simulation.


Chlorella protothecoides Oxygen Acetate Monod Growth modeling AQUASIM 



Concentration of organic carbon (mg C L−1)


Concentration of dissolved CO2 (mg C L−1)


Concentration of dissolved oxygen (mg O2 L−1)


Saturation concentration of oxygen in the liquid (mg O2 L−1)


Saturation concentration of CO2 in the liquid (mg C L−1)


Concentration of ammonium nitrogen (mg N L−1)


Phosphorus concentration (mg P L−1)


Biomass concentration (mg L−1)


Carbon dioxide diffusion coefficients (m2 s−1)


Oxygen diffusion coefficients (m2 s−1)


Incident light intensities (µmol photons m−2 s−1)


Specific light supply rate (mmol photons g−1 day−1)


Half-saturation constant for organic carbon (mg C L−1)


Half-saturation constant CO2 (mg C L−1)


Inhibition constant of the specific light supply rate (mmol photons g−1 day−1)


Light inhibition constant (µmol photons m−2 s−1)


Half-saturation constant of the specific light supply rate (mmol photons g−1 day−1)


Light half-saturation constant (µmol photons m−2 s−1)


Nitrogen half-saturation constant (mg N L−1)


Oxygen half-saturation constant (mg O2 L−1)


Phosphorus half-saturation constant (mg P L−1)

\({Y_{{\raise0.7ex\hbox{$i$} \!\mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {i x}}\right.\kern-0pt}\!\lower0.7ex\hbox{$x$}}}}\)

Yield of nutrient i on biomass (mgi mgX−1)


Oxygen mass transfer coefficient (min−1)


Autotrophic oxygen production rate (mg O2 L−1 day−1)


Heterotrophic oxygen production rate (mg O2 L−1 day−1)


Autotrophic biomass growth rate (mg L−1 day−1)


Heterotrophic biomass growth rate (mg L−1 day−1)

\({\mu _{{\text{APP,1}}}}\)

Autotrophic apparent growth rate (day−1)

\({\mu _{{\text{APP,2}}}}\)

Heterotrophic apparent growth rate (day−1)

\({\mu _{{\text{MAX,A}}}}\)

Autotrophic maximum specific growth rate (day−1)

\({\mu _{{\text{MAX,H}}}}\)

Heterotrophic maximum specific growth rate (day−1)


Reactor thickness (m)


Light intensity (µmol photons m−2 s−1)



Authors would like to acknowledge Prof. Elena Ficara and Prof. Valeria Mezzanotte for valuable discussion and sharing expertise on AQUASIM software, and Alessandro Spagni, PhD for competences about respirometry in wastewater treatment monitoring. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Supplementary material

449_2019_2087_MOESM1_ESM.docx (357 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 357 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eleonora Sforza
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Martina Pastore
    • 1
    • 2
  • Elena Barbera
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alberto Bertucco
    • 2
  1. 1.Interdepartmental Centre Giorgio Levi CasesPaduaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Industrial Engineering DIIUniversity of PadovaPaduaItaly

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