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Optimization of fatty acid extraction from Phaeodactylum tricornutum UTEX 640 biomass

Ibáñez González, M. J., Robles Medina, A., Grima, E. Molina, Giménez, A. Giménez, Carstens, M., Cerdán, L. Esteban
journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society 1998 v.75 no.12 pp. 1735-1740
Phaeodactylum tricornutum, acidification, biomass, carotenoids, eicosapentaenoic acid, ethanol, fractionation, hexane, high performance liquid chromatography, microalgae, pH, potassium, prediction, production costs, salts, saponification, soaps, urea, water content
Fatty acids in the microalga Phaeodactylum tricornutum were isolated using an optimized three-step method: extraction of crude fatty acid potassium salts made by direct saponification of lipids in the microalgal biomass with KOH/ethanol (96%, vol/vol), separation of unsaponifiable lipids by extraction with hexane, and final purification of fatty acids by acidification of the alcoholic solution of potassium soaps followed by extraction of fatty acid into hexane. Direct saponification was carried out in ethanol (96%, vol/vol) using 2.09 mL ethanol (96%) per gram of wet biomass (10 mL/g of dry biomass) mixed with 0.4 g KOH/g of biomass. Under these conditions the fatty acid yield was 87%. The optimal water content of the alcoholic solution for extraction of the unsapononifiables was established as 40%, w/w. Data on equilibrium carotenoid distribution between the alcoholic (40%, w/w water) and hexane phases were determined. These data allow prediction of the carotenoid yields with different volumes of hexane in several extraction steps. The optimal pH of the alcoholic solution before extracting the purified fatty acid was established as pH 6, and the equilibrium fatty acid distribution between the alcoholic and hexane phases was determined. This optimized method permited a 20% reduction in the production costs of highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in the three-step preparative process (extraction of fatty acid, concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids by the urea method, and EPA fractionation through preparative high-performance liquid chromatography) previously developed by the authors.