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Publication Date




Publication Title

Energy & Fuels








Conversion of microalgae to renewable fuels and chemical co-products by pretreating and fractionation holds promise as an algal biorefinery concept, but a better understanding of the pretreatment performance as a function of algae strain and composition is necessary to de-risk algae conversion operations. Similarly, there are few examples of algae pretreatment at scales larger than the bench scale. This work aims to de-risk algal biorefinery operations by evaluating the pretreatment performance across nine different microalgae samples and five different pretreatment methods at small (5 mL) scale and further de-risk the operation by scaling pretreatment for one species to the 80 L scale. The pretreatment performance was evaluated by solubilization of feedstock carbon and nitrogen [as total organic carbon (TOC) and total nitrogen (TN)] into the aqueous hydrolysate and extractability of lipids [as fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs)] from the pretreated solids. A range of responses was noted among the algae samples across pretreatments, with the current dilute Brønsted acid pretreatment using H₂SO₄ being the most consistent and robust. This pretreatment produced TOC yields to the hydrolysate ranging from 27.7 to 51.1%, TN yields ranging from 12.3 to 76.2%, and FAME yields ranging from 57.9 to 89.9%. In contrast, the other explored pretreatments (other dilute acid pretreatments, dilute alkali pretreatment with NaOH, enzymatic pretreatment, and flash hydrolysis) produced lower or more variable yields across the three metrics. In light of the greater consistency across samples for dilute acid pretreatment, this method was scaled to 80 L to demonstrate scalability with microalgae feedstocks.


© The Authors 2024.

This article is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (


0009-0007-4108-8271 (Hirayama), 0000-0003-4944-9397 (Thakkar)

Original Publication Citation

Kruger, J. S., Schutter, S., Knoshaug, E. P., Panczak, B., Alt, H., Sowell, A., Van Wychen, S., Fowler, M., Hirayama, K., Thakkar, A., Kumar, S., & Dong, T. (2024). De-risking pretreatment of microalgae to produce fuels and chemical co-products. Energy & Fuels, 38, 8804-8816.