Enzymatic Disruption of Cell Walls for the Controlled Release of Valuable Products from Microalgal Biomass

Project

Enzymatic Disruption of Cell Walls for the Controlled Release of Valuable Products from Microalgal Biomass

The methods currently used for disruption/extraction are successful at breaking cells; however the valuable compounds are virtually impossible to recover because they are part of an emulsion and/or their valuable properties are lost in the process. The aim of this project is to develop an enzyme-based process to disrupt/weaken algal cell walls and facilitate the mild and controlled extraction of valuable products.

Introduction

The potential of microalgae biorefineries is still to be realized. One of the main challenges lies in the disruption and extraction of valuable products from algal biomass. While there are methods that successfully break cells and facilitate the extraction of the cell contents, the valuable compounds in these extracts are virtually impossible to recover because the mixture has become an emulsion and/or the initial properties of the products of interest are lost in the disruption/extraction process.
Enzymatic treatment is widely recognised as a high-potential technology for facilitating cell disruption in microalgae biorefineries. Unlike mechanical disruption, enzymatic treatments can be adapted to specific strains, conditions and end-products but can also offer great versatility by the formulation of different enzymatic cocktails.

Aim

The aim of this project is to develop an enzyme-based process to disrupt/weaken algal cell walls and facilitate the controlled extraction of valuable products.

Approach

Our approach to achieve this is to use the main advantage of enzymes over other disruption methods: Specificity. Instead of using enzymatic cocktails designed for other substrates, we will find the enzyme(s) needed for breaking each biopolymer present in the cell wall in a systematic way: from the outer layer to the plasma membrane. Once enzymatic disruption is achieved, we will design an enzyme cocktail for microalgae, in specific two strains: Microchloropsis gaditana and Tetraselmis suecica that can break cell walls.

Approach