Journal of Polymer Research

, 24:158 | Cite as

Extraction and purification of Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs): application of Thermoseparating aqueous two-phase extraction

  • Yoong Kit Leong
  • Pau Loke Show
  • John Chi-Wei Lan
  • Hwei-San Loh
  • Yee Jiun Yap
  • Tau Chaun Ling


Being biodegradable, non-toxic and renewable as well as having similar or better properties than commercial plastics, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) can be a potential game changer in the polymer industry. Although viewed as a sustainable alternative to petrochemicals due to its biodegradability, PHAs are plagued with low commercial value due to their high production and recovery costs. Having the benefits of providing a mild environment for bioseparation, being environment-friendly and scalable, together with it its distinctive thermoseparating properties and ease of recyclability, thermoseparating-based aqueous two-phase extraction (ATPE) has provided the eco-friendly and economical solution to the PHA dilemma. ATPE-influencing factors such as types of thermoseparating polymer, concentration of phase-forming components, pH, and effect of centrifugation were investigated. Under the condition of 14 wt/wt% of EOPO 3900 concentration, 14 wt/wt% of ammonium sulfate concentration and pH 6 without the needs for extra centrifugation steps, a recovery yield and a purification factor of up to 72.2% and 1.61 fold can be achieved with the copolymers which can be recycled and reused twice. Thermoseparating ATPE has thus been proven to be a powerful primary purification tool for PHAs.


Aqueous two-phase extraction Bioseparation Downstream processing Polyhydroxyalkanoates Purification Thermoseparating polymers 



Aqueous two-phase extraction


Aqueous two-phase system


Cloud point


Ethylene oxide-propylene oxide


Partition coefficient


Lower critical solution temperature


Polyethylene glycol


Purifycation factor


Tie-line length


Thermoseparating polymer


Volume ratio





This work is supported financially by Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (Malaysia, FRGS/1/2013/SG05/UNIM/02/1), MyBrain15 (MyPhD), Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI-02-02-12-SF0256) and National Science Council (Taiwan, NSC102-2221-E-155-057 and NSC101-2632-E-155-001-MY3).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yoong Kit Leong
    • 1
  • Pau Loke Show
    • 1
  • John Chi-Wei Lan
    • 2
  • Hwei-San Loh
    • 3
  • Yee Jiun Yap
    • 4
  • Tau Chaun Ling
    • 5
  1. 1.Bioseparation Research Group, Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of EngineeringUniversity of Nottingham Malaysia CampusSemenyihMalaysia
  2. 2.Biorefinery & Bioprocess Engineering Laboratory, Department of Chemical Engineering and Material ScienceYuan Ze UniversityTaoyuanTaiwan
  3. 3.School of Biosciences, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of Nottingham Malaysia CampusSemenyihMalaysia
  4. 4.Department of Applied Mathematics, Faculty of EngineeringUniversity of Nottingham Malaysia CampusSemenyihMalaysia
  5. 5.Institute of Biological Sciences, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia

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