Bioprospecting the thermal waters of the Roman Baths: Isolation of oleaginous species and analysis of the FAME profile for biodiesel production

Holly D Smith-Badorf, C.J. Chuck, K.R. Mokebo, H. MacDonald, M.G. Davidson, R.J. Scott

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The extensive diversity of microalgae provides an opportunity to undertake bioprospecting for species possessing features suited to commercial scale cultivation. The outdoor cultivation of microalgae is subject to extreme temperature fluctuations; temperature tolerant microalgae would help mitigate this problem. The waters of the Roman Baths, which have a temperature range between 39°C and 46°C, were sampled for microalgae. A total of 3 green algae, 1 diatom and 4 cyanobacterial species were successfully isolated into 'unialgal' culture. Four isolates were filamentous, which could prove advantageous for low energy dewatering of cultures using filtration. Lipid content, profiles and growth rates of the isolates were examined at temperatures of 20, 30, 40°C, with and without nitrogen starvation and compared against the oil producing green algal species, Chlorella emersonii. Some isolates synthesized high levels of lipids, however, all were most productive at temperatures lower than those of the Roman Baths. The eukaryotic algae accumulated a range of saturated and polyunsaturated FAMEs and all isolates generally showed higher lipid accumulation under nitrogen deficient conditions (Klebsormidium sp. increasing from 1. 9% to 16. 0% and Hantzschia sp. from 31. 9 to 40. 5%). The cyanobacteria typically accumulated a narrower range of FAMEs that were mostly saturated, but were capable of accumulating a larger quantity of lipid as a proportion of dry weight (M. laminosus, 37. 8% fully saturated FAMEs). The maximum productivity of all the isolates was not determined in the current work and will require further effort to optimise key variables such as light intensity and media composition.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages14
JournalAMB Express
Issue number1
Early online date31 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2013


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