Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 7, pp 6311–6318 | Cite as

Uptake of copper from acid mine drainage by the microalgae Nannochloropsis oculata

  • Maria del Rosario Martínez-Macias
  • Ma. A. Correa-Murrieta
  • Yedidia Villegas-Peralta
  • Germán Eduardo Dévora-Isiordia
  • Jesús Álvarez-Sánchez
  • Jorge Saldivar-Cabrales
  • Reyna G. Sánchez-DuarteEmail author
Research Article


The removal of heavy metals from acid mine drainage is a key factor for avoiding damage to the environment. The microalga Nannochloropsis oculata was cultured in an algal medium with 0.05, 0.1, 0.15, 0.2, and 0.25 mM copper under completely defined conditions to assess its removal capacity; the effects of copper on the cell density and lipid productivity of N. oculata were also evaluated. The results showed that N. oculata was able to remove up to 99.92 ± 0.04% of the copper content in the culture medium. A total of 89.29 ± 1.92% was eliminated through metabolism, and 10.70 ± 1.92% was removed by adsorption. These findings are favorable because they indicate that a large amount of copper was extracted due to the ability of the microalga to metabolize copper ions. The cell density, growth rate, and lipid content decreased with increased concentrations of copper in the culture medium. A positive effect on the fatty acid profile was found, as the saturated fatty acid (SFA) and monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) content improved when the copper concentration was higher than 0.1 mmol L−1, which can potentiate the production of high-quality biodiesel. N. oculata is a good option for the treatment of acid mine drainage due to its ability to eliminate a substantial percentage of the copper present. Moreover, combining different culture systems such that heavy metals are removed to non-toxic levels in the first stage and high cell densities, which promote lipid production, is obtained in the second stage would be an advantageous strategy.


Microalgae Lipids Biodiesel Heavy metals Acid mine drainage 



This work was supported by the Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora through project promotion and supporting research development (PROFAPI, 2016).


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria del Rosario Martínez-Macias
    • 1
  • Ma. A. Correa-Murrieta
    • 1
  • Yedidia Villegas-Peralta
    • 1
  • Germán Eduardo Dévora-Isiordia
    • 1
  • Jesús Álvarez-Sánchez
    • 1
  • Jorge Saldivar-Cabrales
    • 1
  • Reyna G. Sánchez-Duarte
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de Ciencias del Agua y Medio AmbienteInstituto Tecnológico de SonoraCiudad ObregónMéxico

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