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Effects of Escherichia coli on mixotrophic growth of Chlorella minutissima and production of biofuel precursors.


Chlorella minutissima was co-cultured with Escherichia coli in airlift reactors under mixotrophic conditions (glucose, glycerol, and acetate substrates) to determine possible effects of bacterial contamination on algal biofuel production. It was hypothesized that E. coli would compete with C. minutissima for nutrients, displacing algal biomass. However, C. minutissima grew more rapidly and to higher densities in the presence of E. coli, suggesting a symbiotic relationship between the organisms. At an initial 1% substrate concentration, the co-culture produced 200-587% more algal biomass than the axenic C. minutissima cultures. Co-cultures grown on 1% substrate consumed 23-737% more of the available carbon substrate than the sum of substrate consumed by E. coli and C. minutissima alone. At 1% substrate, total lipid and starch productivity were elevated in co-cultures compared to axenic cultures indicating that bacterial contamination was not detrimental to the production of biofuel precursors in this specific case. Bio-fouling of the reactors observed in co-cultures and acid formation in all mixotrophic cultures, however, could present challenges for scale-up.

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