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Background: For a commercially feasible microalgal triglyceride (TAG) production, high TAG productivities are required. The operational strategy affects TAG productivity but a systematic comparison between different strategies is lacking. For this, physiological responses of Nannochloropsis sp. to nitrogen (N) starvation and N-rich medium replenishment were studied in lab-scale batch and repeated-batch (part of the culture is periodically harvested and N-rich medium is re-supplied) cultivations under continuous light, and condensed into a mechanistic model. Results: The model, which successfully described both strategies, was used to identify potential improvements for both batch and repeated-batch and compare the two strategies on optimized TAG yields on light (amount of TAGs produced per mol of supplied PAR photons). TAG yields on light, for batch, from 0.12 (base case at high light) to 0.49 g molph-1 (at low light and with improved strain) and, for repeated-batch, from 0.07 (base case at high light) to 0.39 g molph-1 (at low light with improved strain and optimized repeated-batch settings). The base case yields are in line with the yields observed in current state-of-the-art outdoor TAG production. Conclusions: For continuous light, an optimized batch process will always result in higher TAG yield on light compared to an optimized repeated-batch process. This is mainly because repeated-batch cycles start with N-starved cells. Their reduced photosynthetic capacity leads to inefficient light use during the regrowth phase which results in lower overall TAG yields compared to a batch process.
Benvenuti, G., Lamers, P. P., Breuer, G., Bosma, R., Cerar, A., Wijffels, R. H., & Barbosa, M. J. (2016). Microalgal TAG production strategies: Why batch beats repeated-batch. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13068-016-0475-4