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Extraction of microalgae derived lipids with supercritical carbon dioxide in an industrial relevant pilot plant

Lorenzen, Jan, Igl, Nadine, Tippelt, Marlene, Stege, Andrea, Qoura, Farah, Sohling, Ulrich, Brück, Thomas
Bioprocess and biosystems engineering 2017 v.40 no.6 pp. 911-918
Scenedesmus obliquus, algal oils, bentonite, biomass, carbon dioxide, carotenoids, chlorophyll, cost effectiveness, food industry, greenhouse gases, lubricants, microalgae, plants (botany), temperature, triacylglycerols
Microalgae are capable of producing up to 70% w/w triglycerides with respect to their dry cell weight. Since microalgae utilize the greenhouse gas CO₂, they can be cultivated on marginal lands and grow up to ten times faster than terrestrial plants, the generation of algae oils is a promising option for the development of sustainable bioprocesses, that are of interest for the chemical lubricant, cosmetic and food industry. For the first time we have carried out the optimization of supercritical carbon dioxide (SCCO₂) mediated lipid extraction from biomass of the microalgae Scenedesmus obliquus and Scenedesmus obtusiusculus under industrrially relevant conditions. All experiments were carried out in an industrial pilot plant setting, according to current ATEX directives, with batch sizes up to 1.3 kg. Different combinations of pressure (7–80 MPa), temperature (20–200 °C) and CO₂ to biomass ratio (20–200) have been tested on the dried biomass. The most efficient conditions were found to be 12 MPa pressure, a temperature of 20 °C and a CO₂ to biomass ratio of 100, resulting in a high extraction efficiency of up to 92%. Since the optimized CO₂ extraction still yields a crude triglyceride product that contains various algae derived contaminants, such as chlorophyll and carotenoids, a very effective and scalable purification procedure, based on cost efficient bentonite based adsorbers, was devised. In addition to the sequential extraction and purification procedure, we present a consolidated online-bleaching procedure for algae derived oils that is realized within the supercritical CO₂ extraction plant.