Screening Microalgae Strains for Biodiesel Production: Lipid Productivity and Estimation of Fuel Quality Based on Fatty Acids Profiles as Selective Criteria


The viability of algae-based biodiesel industry depends on the selection of adequate strains in regard to profitable yields and oil quality. This work aimed to bioprospecting and screening 12 microalgae strains by applying, as selective criteria, the volumetric lipid productivity and the fatty acid profiles, used for estimating the biodiesel fuel properties. Volumetric lipid productivity varied among strains from 22.61 to 204.91 mg l−1 day−1. The highest lipid yields were observed for Chlorella (204.91 mg l−1 day1) and Botryococcus strains (112.43 and 98.00 mg l−1 day−1 for Botryococcus braunii and Botryococcus terribilis, respectively). Cluster and principal components analysis analysis applied to fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) profiles discriminated three different microalgae groups according to their potential for biodiesel production. Kirchneriella lunaris, Ankistrodesmus fusiformis, Chlamydocapsa bacillus, and Ankistrodesmus falcatus showed the highest levels of polyunsaturated FAME, which incurs in the production of biodiesels with the lowest (42.47–50.52) cetane number (CN), the highest (101.33–136.97) iodine values (IV), and the lowest oxidation stability. The higher levels of saturated FAME in the oils of Chlamydomonas sp. and Scenedesmus obliquus indicated them as source of biodiesel with higher oxidation stability, higher CN (63.63–64.94), and lower IV (27.34–35.28). The third group, except for the Trebouxyophyceae strains that appeared in isolation, are composed by microalgae that generate biodiesel of intermediate values for CN, IV, and oxidation stability, related to their levels of saturated and monosaturated lipids. Thus, in this research, FAME profiling suggested that the best approach for generating a microalgae-biodiesel of top quality is by mixing the oils of distinct cell cultures.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3



Brazilian National Agency for Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels


American Society for Testing and Materials


Cold filter plugging point


Cetane number


Degree of unsaturation


Fatty acids


Fatty acid methyl esters


Greenhouse gases


Iodine value

L c :

Total lipids content


Long-chain saturated factor

L p :

Volumetric lipid productivity


Mega Joule


Monounsaturated fatty acids


Optical density


Oxidative stability

P dwt :

Biomass productivity


Polyunsaturated fatty acids


Saponification value




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This work benefited from the support from the National Council for the Scientific and Technological Development (CNPQ)/Science and Technology Ministry, Brazil (processes 574712/2008-9 and 551134/2010-0).

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Correspondence to Iracema Andrade Nascimento.

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Nascimento, I.A., Marques, S.S.I., Cabanelas, I.T.D. et al. Screening Microalgae Strains for Biodiesel Production: Lipid Productivity and Estimation of Fuel Quality Based on Fatty Acids Profiles as Selective Criteria. Bioenerg. Res. 6, 1–13 (2013).

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  • Biodiesel quality
  • Fatty acid profiles
  • Lipid productivity
  • Microalgae bioprospection
  • Microalgae selection for biodiesel production