Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 18, pp 18520–18532 | Cite as

Outdoor cultivation of the green microalga Chlorella vulgaris under stress conditions as a feedstock for biofuel

  • Mostafa M. El-Sheekh
  • Saly F. GhedaEmail author
  • Abo El-Khair B. El-Sayed
  • Atef M. Abo Shady
  • Mai E. El-Sheikh
  • Michael Schagerl
Research Article


The present work investigated the potential of the green alga Chlorella vulgaris to produce high-quality biofuel under culture stress conditions. The cultivation was carried out in a 1000 l open plate tank system, which provides biomass yields comparable to open pond systems, but with less area needed. Algal biomass and lipid content were measured repeatedly. We compared the two solvent systems n-hexane and hexane/isopropanol (HIP) for extraction efficiency of lipids and applied three different extraction methods Soxhlet, soaking, and soaking followed by Soxhlet (soak-Sox). The combination of the HIP solvent and the soak-Sox provided the highest lipid yield (15.8 ± 0.174). Volumetric biomass and lipid productivity were 0.201 g l−1 day−1 and 31.71 mg l−1 day−1, respectively, whereas areal biomass and lipid productivity were 25.73 g m−2 day−1 and 4.066 g m−2 day−1, respectively. The fatty acid profile by means of gas chromatography resulted in seven fatty acids from C12 to C18. The most abundant fatty acid methyl esters (FAMES) were palmitic (C16:0), oleic (C18:1), and stearic (C18:0) acids. Lipid synthesis enhanced by optimizing the Kuhl growth medium with replacing nitrate by urea (50% N compared to the original recipe) increased salt content (10 g/l NaCl), ferrous sulfate (0.5 g/l), and sodium acetate addition (1 g/l). With regard to density, kinematic viscosity, gravity, pour point, flash point, and cetane number, the Chlorella-biodiesel comply with ASTM and EN standards thus pointing at the high potential of lipids synthesized by Chlorella as a feedstock for biodiesel production.


Biodiesel Lipid extraction Green alga Fuel properties Open plate tank system Culture medium 



We acknowledge the scholarship fund from the Egyptian Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT) for M. El-Sheikh.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mostafa M. El-Sheekh
    • 1
  • Saly F. Gheda
    • 1
    Email author
  • Abo El-Khair B. El-Sayed
    • 2
  • Atef M. Abo Shady
    • 1
  • Mai E. El-Sheikh
    • 1
  • Michael Schagerl
    • 3
  1. 1.Botany Department, Faculty of ScienceTanta UniversityTantaEgypt
  2. 2.National Research Center, Algal Biotechnology UnitCairoEgypt
  3. 3.Deparment of Limnology and Bio-OceanographyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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