Calcium carbonate prevents Botryococcus braunii growth inhibition caused by medium acidification

Microalgae, Botryococcus braunii in particular, have received increasing interest owing to their potential as biofuel sources. Although the fertilizer components present in wastewater are useful in reducing the cost of commercial production of microalgae, the ammonium nitrogen (NH4+-N) acidifies the medium and may inhibit the growth of B. braunii. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effectiveness of calcium carbonate in preventing the growth inhibition of B. braunii by suppressing pH decrease caused by NH4+-N. Four types of modified Chu13 media were prepared: a control, one with NH4+-N, one with calcium carbonate, and one with calcium carbonate and NH4+-N. Then, the pH, NH4+-N concentration, B. braunii growth, and hydrocarbon content were measured. We found that in the NH4+-N treatment without calcium carbonate, the pH decreased to approximately 4, and there was almost no algal growth even after 20 days. In contrast, there were no differences in the growth rate and medium pH (7–8) between the treatment with calcium carbonate and the control medium. In addition, calcium ions were leached into the medium with calcium carbonate as the culture progressed, confirming the effectiveness of calcium carbonate in maintaining a constant pH and thus preventing growth inhibition. As such, the addition of calcium carbonate effectively prevents B. braunii growth inhibition by suppressing pH decrease and is more cost-effective than aggressive pH adjustment with alkali or acid or by adding buffer solutions into the medium. This simple and inexpensive method can be used for the removal of ammonia from wastewater.

Miura, R., Furuhashi, K., Hasegawa, F., Kaizu Y. & Imou K., in press. Calcium carbonate prevents Botryococcus braunii growth inhibition caused by medium acidification. Journal of Applied Phycology. Article (subscription required).

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