Ionic Liquid-Assisted Selective Extraction and Partitioning of Biomolecules from Macroalgae

Suarez Garcia, Edgar; Miranda, Carlota F.; Cesario, M.T.; Wijffels, Rene H.; van den Berg, Corjan; Eppink, Michel H.M.


Macroalgae are a promising feedstock for several industries due to their large content of proteins and carbohydrates and the high biomass productivities. A novel extraction and fractionation concept based on ionic liquids (ILs) using Ulva lactuca as model organism is presented. Biomolecules are first extracted by means of IL-assisted mechanical shear, followed by two-phase partitioning or ultrafiltration in order to fractionate proteins and carbohydrates and to recover the IL. Ethyl methyl imidazolium dibutyl phosphate ([Emim][DBP]) is strongly selective to proteins, leading to extraction yields up to 80.4% for proteins and 30.7% for carbohydrates. The complete process, including extraction and ultrafiltration, allowed protein recovery of up to 64.6 and 15.4% of the carbohydrates in the retentate phase, while a maximum of 85.7% of the IL was recovered in the permeate phase. The native structure of the extracted proteins was preserved during extraction and fractionation as shown by gel electrophoresis. Selective extraction of proteins from macroalgae under non-denaturing conditions using ILs followed by the recovery of IL using ultrafiltration is for the first time reported. The proposed extraction-fractionation approach is simple and can be potentially applied for the biorefinery of macroalgae at the commercial scale.