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Rapid lipid content screening in Neochloris Oleoabundans by carbon-based dielectrophoresis
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1  Tecnologico de Monterrey, Escuela de Ingeniería y Ciencias, Ave. Eugenio Garza Sada 2501, Monterrey, N.L., México, 64849
2  Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Irvine, 4200 Engineering Gateway, Irvine, CA, USA, 92697


The use of microalgae as a biomass source for biofuels production has drawn attention of many scientists due to several associated environmental advantages over conventional terrestrial crops, including microalgae growing using wastewaters, and higher CO2 fixation rate, contributing to reduction of atmospheric concentration. Consequently, a reliable cytoplasmic lipid screening process in microalgae is a valuable asset for harvesting optimization in mass production processes. In this study, heterogeneous cytoplasmic lipid content of Neochloris Oleoabundans was dielectrophoretically assorted in a microfluidic device using castellated carbon microelectrodes. Experiments carried out over a wide frequency window (100 kHz to 30 MHz) at a fixed amplitude of 7 VPP, showed a significant contrast between the dielectrophoretic behavior of high-lipid content and low-lipid content cells at the low frequency range (100-800 kHz). A weak response for the mid and high frequency ranges (1-30 MHz) was also identified for high and low lipid content samples, allowing to establish an electrokinetic footprint of the studied strain.

These results suggest that development of a reliable screening process for harvesting optimization is possible through a fast and straightforward mechanism such as dielectrophoresis, employing glassy carbon, a low-cost and easy-to-machine material.

Experimental setup in this study involved in-vitro culturing of nitrogen-replete (N+) and a nitrogen-deplete (N-) cell suspensions to promote low and high lipid production in cells, respectively. Cell populations were monitored using spectrophotometry, and the resulting lipid development among cells was quantified by Nile red fluorescence.

Keywords: dielectrophoresis; microalgae; biofuels; microfluidics; Carbon-MEMS