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A microfluidic photobioreactor for simultaneous observation and cultivation of single microalgal cells or cell aggregates

: Westerwalbesloh, Chrisoph; Brehl, Carl; Weber, Sophie; Probst, Christopher; Widzgowski, Janka; Grünberger, Alexander; Pfaff, Christian; Nebdbal, Ladislav; Kohlheyer, Dietrich

Volltext ()

PLoS one. Online journal 14 (2019), Nr.4, Art. e0216093, 13 S.
ISSN: 1932-6203
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer IGB ()

Microalgae are an ubiquitous and powerful driver of geochemical cycles which have formed Earth’s biosphere since early in the evolution. Lately, microalgal research has been strongly stimulated by economic potential expected in biofuels, wastewater treatment, and high-value products. Similar to bacteria and other microorganisms, most work so far has been performed on the level of suspensions which typically contain millions of algal cells per millilitre. The thus obtained macroscopic parameters average cells, which may be in various phases of their cell cycle or even, in the case of microbial consortia, cells of different species. This averaging may obscure essential features which may be needed for the correct understanding and interpretation of investigated processes. In contrast to these conventional macroscopic cultivation and measuring tools, microfluidic single-cell cultivation systems represent an excellent alternative to study individual cells or a small number of mutually interacting cells in a well-defined environment. A novel microfluidic photobioreactor was developed and successfully tested by the photoautotrophic cultivation of Chlorella sorokiniana. The reported microbioreactor facilitates automated long-term cultivation of algae with controlled temperature and with an illumination adjustable over a wide range of photon flux densities. Chemical composition of the medium in the microbioreactor can be stabilised or modulated rapidly to study the response of individual cells. Furthermore, the algae are cultivated in one focal plane and separate chambers, enabling single-cell level investigation of over 100 microcolonies in parallel. The developed platform can be used for systematic growth studies, medium screening, species interaction studies, and the thorough investigation of light-dependent growth kinetics.