Although the potential for biofuel production from microalgae via photosynthesis has been intensively investigated, information on the selection of a suitable operation strategy for microalgae-based biofuel production is lacking. Many published reports describe competitive strains and optimal culture conditions for use in biofuel production; however, the major impediment to further improvements is the absence of effective engineering strategies for microalgae cultivation and biofuel production. This comprehensive review discusses recent advances in understanding the effects of major environmental stresses and the characteristics of various engineering operation strategies on the production of biofuels (mainly biodiesel and bioethanol) using microalgae. The performances of microalgae-based biofuel-producing systems under various environmental stresses (i.e., irradiance, temperature, pH, nitrogen depletion, and salinity) and cultivation strategies (i.e., fed-batch, semi-continuous, continuous, two-stage, and salinity-gradient) are compared. The reasons for variations in performance and the underlying theories of the various production strategies are also critically discussed. The aim of this review is to provide useful information to facilitate development of innovative and feasible operation technologies for effectively increasing the commercial viability of microalgae-based biofuel production.
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