The use of 1H NMR spectroscopy to assay triglyceride content in microalgae, yeast and diatoms for biofuel production.
Helms, Gregory L.
Hiscox, William C.
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The need for an alternative liquid fuel source to traditional fossil fuels has led researchers to consider microalgae as such a source, especially for biodiesel and aviation fuels. Many species of microalgae produce large quantities of triacylglycerides (the precursors to biodiesel and other fuels) in response to various environmental stressors. In addition to microalgae other organisms such as yeasts and diatoms are known to produce and accumulate triacylglycerides. Many microalgae species are also able to grow both phototrophically (in the presence of light) utilizing CO2 as a carbon source or heterotrophically (in the absence of light) utilizing complex carbon sources such as glucose. Researchers are currently evaluating species from these various organisms for the ability to produce triacylglycerides as well as other biofuel precursors and specialty chemicals (co-products). The ability to assay for triacylglyceride content whether for strain selection or for process optimization is a key step in biofuel production. At WSU we have developed a method utilizing 1H NMR spectroscopy whereby the triacylglyceride content is measured in live cells that have not been altered or manipulated in anyway. Initial results were presented at Showcase 2011 and the method has been successfully applied to phototrophically grown microalgae. This success has led us to turn our attention to heterotrophically grown algae and to diatoms and yeast to determine if the method can be generalized to all microorganisms producing triacylglycerides. Results will be shown for the four major types of oleaginous organisms, microalgae (both photo and heterotrophs), yeast and diatoms.