Intermediate pyrolysis and product identification by TGA and Py-GC/MS of green microalgae and their extracted protein and lipid components

Katharina Kebelmann, Andreas Hornung, Ulf Karsten, Gareth Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The thermo-chemical conversion of green microalgae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii wild type (CCAP 11/32C), its cell wall deficient mutant C. reinhardtii CW15 (CCAP 11/32CW15) and Chlorella vulgaris (CCAP 211/11B) as well as their proteins and lipids was studied under conditions of intermediate pyrolysis. The microalgae were characterised for ultimate and gross chemical composition, lipid composition and extracted products were analysed by Thermogravimetric analysis (TG/DTG) and Pyrolysis-gaschromatography/mass-spectrometry (Py-GC/MS). Proteins accounted for almost 50% and lipids 16-22 % of dry weight of cells with little difference in the lipid compositions between the C. reinhardtii wild type and the cell wall mutant. During TGA analysis, each biomass exhibited three stages of decomposition, namely dehydration, devolatilization and decomposition of carbonaceous solids. Py-GC/MS analysis revealed significant protein derived compounds from all algae including toluene, phenol, 4-methylphenol, 1H-indole, 1H-indole-3methyl. Lipid pyrolysis products derived from C. reinhardtii wild type and C. reinhardtii CW15 were almost identical and reflected the close similarity of the fatty acid profiles of both strains. Major products identified were phytol and phytol derivatives formed from the terpenoid chain of chlorophyll, benzoic acid alkyl ester derivative, benzenedicarboxylic acid alkyl ester derivative and squalene. In addition, octadecanoic acid octyl ester, hexadecanoic acid methyl ester and hydrocarbons including heptadecane, 1-nonadecene and heneicosane were detected from C. vulgaris pyrolysed lipids. These results contrast sharply with the types of pyrolytic products obtained from terrestrial lignocellulosic feedstocks and reveal that intermediate pyrolysis of algal biomass generates a range of useful products with wide ranging applications including bio fuels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-48
Number of pages11
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • intermediate pyrolysis
  • BtVB process
  • lipid pyrolysis
  • protein pyrolysis
  • chlamydomonas reinhardtii
  • chlorella vulgaris


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