Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 959–968 | Cite as

The conversion of carbon dioxide from biogas into phototrophic microalgal biomass

  • Gunnar MannEmail author
  • Mathias Schlegel
  • Norbert Kanswohl
  • Rhena Schumann


This study examines the conversion of CO2 from biogas into microalgal biomass during photosynthetic biogas upgrading. In this process, CO2 is separated from biogas by microalgae, which use the CO2 for photosynthesis. However, the conversion of biogas C into biomass of individual microalgal species is still not fully understood. Therefore, Chlorella vulgaris, Chloroparva pannonica, Synechococcus cedrorum, Synechocystis minuscula and Spirulina laxissima were screened for growth in C-limited media. Secondly, algal biomass was produced in C-limited media at bench-scale. Subsequently, two of these cultures were treated with biogas and the biogas CO2 fixation rates as well as several growth parameters were determined. C. vulgaris and C. pannonica grew well during the screening. During the following biomass production, the cultures grew at rates of 0.42 and 0.48 day−1, respectively. After biogas treatment, the increases in cell growth, biomass and organic carbon of C. vulgaris were significantly higher than in the controls. In contrast, the growth of biogas-treated C. pannonica cultures did not differ from their controls. Thus, the accumulation of biogas C in microalgae is species-specific. The measurements of carbon in biomass of individual algal species proved to be inevitable to determine exact CO2 fixation rates. The CO2 fixation of 1.0 g per formed g C. vulgaris was lower compared to other biogas upgrading studies with photosynthetic microalgae. Ultimately, the introduced species-specific approach helps to prevent the misinterpretation of CO2 fixation rates during photosynthetic biogas upgrading as well as the enhanced biological carbon fixation with phototrophic microalgae.


Biogas CO2 fixation rate Microalgae Organic carbon Photosynthetic biogas upgrading 


Funding information

This study was financially supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Adamczyk, Lasek J, Skawińska A (2016) CO2 biofixation and growth kinetics of Chlorella vulgaris and Nannochloropsis gaditana. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 179:1248–1261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alcántara C, García-Encina PA, Muñoz R (2015) Evaluation of the simultaneous biogas upgrading and treatment of centrates in a high-rate algal pond through C, N and P mass balances. Water Sci Technol 72:150–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andriani D, Wresta A, Atmaja TD, Saepudin A (2014) A review on optimization production and upgrading biogas through CO2 removal using various techniques. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 172:1909–1928CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Babcock RW, Malda J, Radway JC (2002) Hydrodynamics and mass transfer in a tubular airlift photobioreactor. J Appl Phycol 14:169–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Babcock RW, Wellbrock A, Slenders P, Radway JC (2016) Improving mass transfer in an inclined tubular photobioreactor. J Appl Phycol 28:2195–2203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Badger MR, Andrews TJ, Whitney SM, Ludwig M, Yellowlees DC, Leggat W, Price GD (1998) The diversity and coevolution of rubisco, plastids, pyrenoids, and chloroplast-based CO2-concentrating mechanisms in algae. Can J Bot 76:1052–1071Google Scholar
  7. Borowitzka MA (2013) High-value products from microalgae—their development and commercialisation. J Appl Phycol 25:743–756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carney LT, Lane TW (2014) Parasites in algae mass culture. Front Microbiol 5:278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chi Z, JV O’F, Chen S (2011) Bicarbonate produced from carbon capture for algae culture. Trends Biotech 29:537–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Converti A, Oliveira RPS, Torres BR, Lodi A, Zilli M (2009) Biogas production and valorization by means of a two-step biological process. Bioresour Technol 100:5771–5776CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cornet JF, Dussap CG, Dubertret G (1992) A structured model for simulation of cultures of the cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis in photobioreactors: 1. Coupling between light transfer and growth kinetics. Biotechnol Bioeng 40:817–825CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ding YD, Zhao S, Liao Q, Chen R, Huang Y, Zhu X (2016) Effect of CO2 bubbles behaviors on microalgal cells distribution and growth in bubble column photobioreactor. Int J Hydrogen Energ 41:4879–4887CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ernst B, Neser S, O'Brian E, Hoeger SJ, Dietrich DR (2006) Determination of the filamentous cyanobacteria Planktothrix rubescens in environmental water samples using an image processing system. Harmful Algae 5:281–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gim GH, Kim JK, Kim HS, Kathiravan MN, Yang H, Jeong SH, Kim SW (2014) Comparison of biomass production and total lipid content of freshwater green microalgae cultivated under various culture conditions. Bioprocess Biosyst Eng 37:99–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Giordano M, Beardall J, Raven A (2005) CO2 concentrating mechanisms in algae: mechanisms, environmental modulation, and evolution. Annu Rev Plant Biol 56:99–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Görs M, Schumann R, Hepperle D, Karsten U (2010) Quality analysis of commercial Chlorella products used as dietary supplement in human nutrition. J Appl Phycol 22:265–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gustavs L, Eggert A, Michalik D, Karsten U (2010) Physiological and biochemical responses of green microalgae from different habitats to osmotic and matric stress. Protoplasma 243:3–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Klinthong W, Yang YH, Huang CH, Tan CS (2015) A review: microalgae and their applications in CO2 capture and renewable energy. Aerosol Air Qual Res 15:712–742CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kumar A, Ergas S, Yuan X, Sahu A, Zhang Q, Dewulf J, Malcata FX, van Langenhove H (2010) Enhanced CO2 fixation and biofuel production via microalgae: recent developments and future directions. Trend Biotechnol 28:371–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lee CG (1999) Calculation of light penetration depth in photobioreactors. Biotechnol Bioprocess Eng 4:78–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mann G, Schlegel M, Kanswohl N, Schumann R (2016) Experimental system for the prevention of O2- and air contamination during biogas upgrading with phototrophic microalgae. Appl Agric Forestry Res 2:93–100Google Scholar
  22. Meier L, Pérez R, Azócar L, Rivas M, Jeison D (2015) Photosynthetic CO2 uptake by microalgae: an attractive tool for biogas upgrading. Biomass Bioenergy 73:102–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Milledge JJ (2011) Commercial application of microalgae other than as biofuels: a brief review. Rev Env Sci Biotech 10:31–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Miyachi S, Iwasaki I, Shiraiwa Y (2005) Historical perspective on microalgal and cyanobacterial acclimation to low- and extremely high-CO2 conditions. Photosynth Res 77:139–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Müller J, Friedl T, Hepperle D, Lorenz M (2005) Distinction between multiple isolates of Chlorella vulgaris (Chlorophyta, Trebouxiophyceae) and testing for conspecificity using amplified fragment length polymorphism and its rDNA sequences. J Phycol 41:1236–1247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Muñoz R, Meier L, Diaz I, Jeison D (2015) A review on the state-of-the-art of physical/chemical and biological technologies for biogas upgrading. Rev Environ Sci Biotechnol 14:727–759CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pálffy K, Felföldi T, Mentes A, Horváth H, Márialigeti K, Boros E, Vörös L, Somogyi B (2014) Unique picoeukaryotic algal community under multiple environmental stress conditions in a shallow, alkaline pan. Extremophiles 18:111–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Park KH, Lee CG (2000) Optimization of algal photobioreactors using flashing lights. Biotechnol Bioprocess Eng 5:186–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Perner-Nochta I, Lucumi A, Posten C (2007) Photoautotrophic cell and tissue culture in a tubular photobioreactor. Eng Life Sci 7127–135, 7, 127Google Scholar
  30. Ras M, Lardon L, Bruno S, Bernet N, Steyer JP (2011) Experimental study on a coupled process of production and anaerobic digestion of Chlorella vulgaris. Bioresour Technol 102:200–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Raven JA, Giordano M, Beardall J, Maberly SC (2012) Algal evolution in relation to atmospheric CO2: carboxylases, carbon-concentrating mechanisms and carbon oxidation cycles. Phil Trans R Soc B 367:493–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Razzak SA, Al-Aslani I, Hossain MM (2016) Hydrodynamics and mass transfer of CO2 in water in a tubular photobioreactor. Eng Life Sci 16:355–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Richmond A (2013) Introduction. In: Richmond A, Hu Q (eds) Handbook of microalgal culture—applied phycology and biotechnology, 2nd edn. Wiley Blackwell, Chichester, pp XIV-XVIGoogle Scholar
  34. Scheldemann P, Baurain D, Bouhy R, Scott M, Mühling M, Whitton BA, Belay A, Wilmotte A (1999) Arthrospira (‘Spirulina’) strains from four continents are resolved into only two clusters, based on amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis of the internally transcribed spacer. FEMS Microbiol Lett 172:213–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Simic SB, Komárek J, Dordevic NB (2014) The confirmation of the genus Glaucospira (cyanobacteria) and the occurrence of Glaucospira laxissima (G. S. West) comb. nova in Serbia. Cryptogam Algol 35:259–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Somogyi B, Felföldi T, Solymosi K, Makk J, Homonnay ZG, Horváth G, Turcsi E, Böddi B, Márialigeti K, Vörös L (2011) Chloroparva pannonica gen. et sp. nov. (Trebouxiophyceae, Chlorophyta) – a new picoplanktonic green alga from a turbid, shallow soda pan. Phycologia 50:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Souliès A, Legrand J, Marec H, Pruvost J, Castelain C, Burghelea T, Cornet JF (2016) Investigation and modeling of the effects of light spectrum and incident angle on the growth of Chlorella vulgaris in photobioreactors. Biotechnol Prog 32:247–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stanier RY, Kunisawa R, Mandel M, Cohen-Bazir G (1971) Purification and properties of unicellular blue-green algae (order Chroococcales). Bact Rev 35:171–205Google Scholar
  39. Starr RC, Zeikus JA (1993) UTEX—the culture collection of algae at the University of Texas at Austin. J Phycol 29(Suppl):1–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Touloupakis E, Cicchi B, Benavides AMS, Torzillo G (2016) Effect of high pH on growth of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 cultures and their contamination by golden algae (Poterioochromonas sp.). Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 100:1333–1341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Weiland P (2010) Biogas production: current state and perspectives. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 85:849–860CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Xu Y, Boeing WJ (2014) Modeling maximum lipid productivity of microalgae: review and next step. Renew Sust Energ Rev 32:29–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Yun Y, Park JM (1997) Development of gas recycling photobioreactor system for microalgal carbon dioxide fixation. Korean J Chem Eng 14:297–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Yuvraj, Vidyarthi AS, Singh J (2016) Enhancement of Chlorella vulgaris cell density: shake flask and bench-top photobioreactor studies to identify and control limiting factors. Korean J Chem Eng 33:2396–2405CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gunnar Mann
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mathias Schlegel
    • 1
  • Norbert Kanswohl
    • 1
  • Rhena Schumann
    • 2
  1. 1.Department Agricultural Technology and Process Engineering, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesUniversity of RostockRostockGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Biological Sciences, Applied Ecology & Phycology, Biological Station ZingstUniversity of RostockRostockGermany

Personalised recommendations