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Abstract

Tetraselmis chui is known to accumulate starch when subjected to stress. This phenomenon is widely studied for the purpose of industrial production and process development. Yet, knowledge about the metabolic pathways involved is still immature. Hence, in this study, transcription of 27 starch-related genes was monitored under nitrogen deprivation and resupply in 25 L tubular photobioreactors. T. chui proved to be an efficient starch producer under nitrogen deprivation, accumulating starch up to 56% of relative biomass content. The prolonged absence of nitrogen led to an overall down-regulation of the tested genes, in most instances maintained even after nitrogen replenishment when starch was actively degraded. These gene expression patterns suggest post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms play a key role in T. chui under nutrient stress. Finally, the high productivity combined with an efficient recovery after nitrogen restitution makes this species a suitable candidate for industrial production of high-starch biomass.

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Abstract

Microalgal biomass is widely studied for its possible application in food and human nutrition due to its multiple potential health benefits, and to address raising sustainability concerns. An interesting field whereby to further explore the application of microalgae is that of beer brewing, due to the capacity of some species to accumulate large amounts of starch under specific growth conditions. The marine species Tetraselmis chui is a well-known starch producer, and was selected in this study for the production of biomass to be explored as an active ingredient in beer brewing. Cultivation was performed under nitrogen deprivation in 250 L tubular photobioreactors, producing a biomass containing 50% starch. The properties of high-starch microalgal biomass in a traditional mashing process were then assessed to identify critical steps and challenges, test the efficiency of fermentable sugar release, and develop a protocol for small-scale brewing trials. Finally, T. chui was successfully integrated at a small scale into the brewing process as an active ingredient, producing microalgae-enriched beer containing up to 20% algal biomass. The addition of microalgae had a noticeable effect on the beer properties, resulting in a product with distinct sensory properties. Regulation of pH proved to be a key parameter in the process.

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Abstract

The use of microalgal starch has been studied in biorefinery frameworks to produce bioethanol or bioplastics, however, these products are currently not economically viable. Using starch-rich biomass as an ingredient in food applications is a novel way to create more value while expanding the product portfolio of the microalgal industry. Optimization of starch production in the food-approved species Chlorella vulgaris was the main objective of this study. High-throughput screening of biomass composition in response to multiple stressors was performed with FTIR spectroscopy. Nitrogen starvation was identified as an important factor for starch accumulation. Moreover, further studies were performed to assess the role of light distribution, investigating the role of photon supply rates in flat panel photobioreactors. Starch-rich biomass with up to 30% starch was achieved in cultures with low inoculation density (0.1 g L−1) and high irradiation (1800 µmol m−2 s−1). A final large-scale experiment was performed in 25 L tubular reactors, achieving a maximum of 44% starch in the biomass after 12 h in nitrogen starved conditions.

Abstract

ABSTRACT The use of microalgal starch has been studied in biorefinery frameworks to produce bioethanol or bioplastics, however, these products are currently not economically viable. Using starch−rich biomass as an ingredient in food applications is a novel way to create more value while expanding the product portfolio of the microalgal industry. Optimization of starch production in the food−approved species Chlorella vulgaris was the main objective of this study. High−throughput screening of biomass composition in response to multiple stressors was performed with FTIR spectroscopy and nitrogen starvation was identified as an important factor for starch accumulation. Further studies were subsequently performed to assess the role of light distribution, investigating photon supply rates in flat panel photobioreactors. Biomass specific photon supply rate proved to have a strong effect on the accumulation of storage compounds and starch−rich biomass with up to 30% starch was achieved in cultures with low inoculation density (0.1 g L−1) and high irradiation (1800 μmol m−2 s−1). A final large scale experiment was performed in 25 L tubular reactors, achieving a maximum of 44% starch in the biomass after 12 hours in nitrogen starved conditions. Keywords: Chlorella vulgaris, starch, FTIR, photon supply rate, microalgae