Biorefinery of microalgal soluble proteins by sequential processing and membrane filtration

C. Safi*, G. Olivieri, Rui Pina Campos, N. Engelen-Smit, W.J. Mulder, L.A.M. van den Broek, L. Sijtsma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


A mild biorefinery process was investigated on the microalga Nannochloropsis gaditana, to obtain an enriched fraction of water soluble proteins free from chlorophyll. After harvesting, a 100 g.L−1 solution of cells was first subjected to cell disruption by either high-pressure homogenization (HPH) or enzymatic treatment (ENZ). HPH resulted in a larger release of proteins (49%) in the aqueous phase compared to the Alcalase incubation (35%). In both cases, an ultrafiltration/diafiltration (UF/DF) was then performed on the supernatant obtained from cell disruption by testing different membrane cut-off (1000 kDa, 500 kDa and 300 kDa). After optimising the process conditions, the combination of ENZ → UF/DF ended in a larger overall yield of water soluble proteins (24.8%) in the permeate compared to the combination of HPH → UF/DF (17.4%). A gel polarization model was implemented to assess the maximum achievable concentration factor during ultrafiltration and the mass transfer coefficient related to the theoretical permeation flux rate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-158
JournalBioresource Technology
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Biorefinery
  • Cell disruption
  • Fractionation
  • Proteins
  • Ultrafiltration


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