Down-Selection and Outdoor Evaluation of Novel, Halotolerant Algal Strains for Winter Cultivation

Michael Guarnieri, Stefanie Van Wychen, Philip Pienkos, Lukas Dahlin, Henri Gerken, John McGowen, Matthew Posewitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus Citations


Algae offer promising feedstocks for the production of renewable fuel and chemical intermediates. However, poor outdoor winter cultivation capacity currently limits deployment potential. In this study, 300 distinct algal strains were screened in saline medium to determine their cultivation suitability during winter conditions in Mesa, Arizona. Three strains, from the genera Micractinium, Chlorella, and Scenedesmus, were chosen following laboratory evaluations and grown outdoors in 1000 L raceway ponds during the winter. Strains were down-selected based on doubling time, lipid and carbohydrate amount, final biomass accumulation capacity, cell size and phylogenetic diversity. Algal biomass productivity and compositional analysis for lipids and carbohydrates show successful outdoor deployment and cultivation under winter conditions for these strains. Outdoor harvest-yield biomass productivities ranged from 2.9 to 4.0 g/m2/day over an 18 days winter cultivation trial, with maximum productivities ranging from 4.0 to 6.5 g/m2/day, the highest productivities reported to date for algal winter strains grown in saline media in open raceway ponds. Peak fatty acid levels ranged from 9 to 26% percent of biomass, and peak carbohydrate levels ranged from 13 to 34% depending on the strain. Changes in the lipid and carbohydrate profile throughout outdoor growth are reported. This study demonstrates that algal strain screening under simulated outdoor environmental conditions in the laboratory enables identification of strains with robust biomass productivity and biofuel precursor composition. The strains isolated here represent promising winter deployment candidates for seasonal algal biomass production when using crop rotation strategies.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1513
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Dahlin, Van Wychen, Gerken, McGowen, Pienkos, Posewitz and Guarnieri.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-72793


  • Algae composition
  • Algae screening
  • Algal biofuels
  • Microalgae
  • Outdoor winter cultivation
  • Winter algae


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