Downstream processing of Isochrysis galbana: a step towards microalgal biorefinery

Gilbert-López, B.; Mendiola, J.A.; Fontecha, J.; Broek, L.A.M. van den; Sijtsma, L.; Cifuentes, A.; Herrero, M.; Ibáñez, E.


An algae-based biorefinery relies on the efficient use of algae biomass through its fractionation of several valuable/bioactive compounds that can be used in industry. If this biorefinery includes green platforms as downstream processing technologies able to fulfill the requirements of green chemistry, it will end-up with sustainable processes. In the present study, a downstream processing platform has been developed to extract bioactive compounds from the microalga Isochrysis galbana using various pressurized green solvents. Extractions were performed in four sequential steps using (1) supercritical CO2 (ScCO2), (2) ScCO2/ethanol (Gas Expanded Liquid, GXL), (3) pure ethanol, and (4) pure water as solvents, respectively. The residue of the extraction step was used as the raw material for the next extraction. Optimization of the ScCO2 extraction was performed by factorial design in order to maximize carotenoid extraction. During the second step, different percentages of ethanol were evaluated (15%, 45% and 75%) in order to maximize the extraction yield of fucoxanthin, the main carotenoid present in this alga; the extraction of polar lipids was also an aim. The third and fourth steps were performed with the objective of recovering fractions with high antioxidant activity, eventually rich in carbohydrates and proteins. The green downstream platform developed in this study produced different extracts with potential for application in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. Therefore, a good approach for complete revalorization of the microalgae biomass is proposed, by using processes complying with the green chemistry principles.