Microalgae are regarded as a promising source of biofuels, and the concept of a microalgae-based biorefinery has attracted increasing attention in recent years. From an economic perspective, however, the process remains far from competitive with fossil fuels. This is particularly true of lipid extraction, due in part to the energy-intensive drying step. As a result, wet extraction methods have been studied as an economic alternative. In the present study, a novel extraction approach which utilizes high shear stress mixing was adopted and demonstrated for simultaneous lipid extraction and cell disruption to enable the retrieval of lipids directly from concentrated wet biomass. When a high shear mixer (HSM) was used to extract lipid from a dense biomass (> 350 g/L) of the oleaginous algae Aurantiochytrium sp., it exhibited a yield of esterifiable lipids which exceeded 80% in 10 min at 15,000 rpm with various solvent types. The HSM was found to improve the lipid yields substantially with solvents less miscible with either lipids or water, such that the range of Hansen solubility parameters for the usable solvents became 3.3 times wider (14.9–26.5 MPa1/2). The HSM, which appeared effectively to loosen the water barrier that prevents solvent molecules from penetrating through the cell envelope, was found to be more efficient with hexane, hexane/isopropanol, and ethanol, all of which showed nearly identical lipid yields compared to the dry extraction process. The HSM can, indeed, offer a powerful mechanical means of lipid extraction with non-polar and less toxic solvents from wet biomass.
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This work was supported by the Advanced Biomass R&D Center (ABC) of the Global Frontier Project funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (ABC-2010-0029728). We thank Dr. Chul-Ho Kim at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB) for providing Aurantiochytrium sp. KRS101.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests.
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