BACKGROUND: Microalgal biomass is generally used to produce a single product instead of valorizing all of the cellular components. The biomass production and downstream processes are too expensive if only one product is valorized. A new approach was proposed for the simultaneous and selective partitioning of pigments and proteins from disrupted Neochloris oleoabundans cultivated under saline and freshwater conditions. RESULTS: An aqueous two-phase system composed of polyethylene glycol and cholinium dihydrogen phosphate selectively separated microalgal pigments from microalgal proteins. 97.3 ± 1.0% of lutein and 51.6 ± 2.3% of chlorophyll were recovered in the polymer-rich phase. Simultaneously, up to 92.2 ± 2.0% of proteins were recovered in a third phase (interface) in between the aqueous phases (interface). The recovered proteins, including Rubisco with a molecular weight of ∼560 kDa, seem to be intact and pigments did not suffer degradation, demonstrating the mildness of this system for fractionating microalgal biomolecules. CONCLUSION: The ability of aqueous two-phase systems (ATPSs) to simultaneously and efficiently fractionate different biomolecules in a mild manner from disrupted microalgae is demonstrated. This is an important step towards the development of a multiproduct microalgae biorefinery.
- aqueous two-phase systems
- cholinium-based ionic liquids
- microalgae biorefinery