Multiplex microfluidic system integrating sequential operations of microalgal lipid production
The unit cost for the production of algal biofuel needs to be reduced in order to be a substitute for fossil fuel. To achieve this goal, the development of a novel system is needed for a rapid screening of numerous microalgal species to isolate superior strains with the highest lipid productivity. Here, we developed a PDMS-based multiplex microfluidic system with eight chambers and micropillar arrays to expedite multiple steps for lipid sample preparation from different microalgal strains. We could rapidly and efficiently perform sequential operations from cell culture to lipid extraction of eight different microalgal strains simultaneously on a single device without harvesting and purification steps, which are labor- and energy-intensive, by the simple injection of medium and solvent into the central inlet due to the integrated micropillar arrays connecting the chambers and central inlet. The lipid extraction efficiency using this system was comparable (94.5–102.6%) to the conventional Bligh–Dyer method. We investigated the cell growth and lipid productivity of different strains using the microfluidic device. We observed that each strain has a different lipid accumulation pattern according to stress conditions. These results demonstrate that our multiplex microfluidic approach can provide an efficient analytical tool for the rapid analysis of strain performances (e.g. cell growth and lipid productivities) and the determination of the optimal lipid induction condition for each strain.