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Polyhydroxyalkanoates and biochar from green macroalgal Ulva sp. biomass subcritical hydrolysates : Process optimization and a priori economic and greenhouse emissions break-even analysis

Ghosh, Supratim; Greiserman, Semion; Chemodanov, Alexander; Slegers, Petronella Margaretha; Belgorodsky, Bogdan; Epstein, Michael; Kribus, Abraham; Gozin, Michael; Chen, Guo Qiang; Golberg, Alexander

Abstract

Although macroalgae biomass is an emerging sustainable feedstock for biorefineries, the optimum process parameters for their hydrolysis and fermentation are still not known. In the present study, the simultaneous production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) and biochar from green macroalgae Ulva sp. is examined, applying subcritical water hydrolysis and Haloferax mediterranei fermentation. First, the effects of temperature, treatment time, salinity, and solid load on the biomass and PHA productivity were optimized following the Taguchi method. Hydrolysis at 170 °C, 20 min residence time, 38 g L−1 salinity with a seaweed solid load of 5% led to the maximum PHA yield of 0.104 g g−1 Ulva and a biochar yield of 0.194 ± 1.23 g g−1 Ulva. Second, the effect of different initial culture densities on the biomass and PHA productivity was studied. An initial culture density of 50 g L−1 led to the maximum volumetric PHA productivity of 0.024 ± 0.002 g L−1 h−1 with a maximum PHA content of 49.38 ± 0.3% w/w Sensitivity analysis shows that within 90% confidence, the annual PHA production from Ulva sp. is 148.14 g PHA m−2 year−1 with an annual biochar production of 42.6 g m−2 year−1. Priori economic and greenhouse gas break-even analyses of the process were done to estimate annual revenues and allowable greenhouse gas emissions. The study illustrates that PHA production from seaweed hydrolysate using extreme halophiles coupled to biochar production could become a benign and promising step in a marine biorefinery.