Flinders’ New Way to Extract High-Value Bioactives from Algae Oil

  Algae Europe December 2022
Flinders

Medical Biotechnology scientist Associate Professor Munish Puri, left, and fellow researcher Dr. Adarsha Gupta with locally sourced Australian microalgae in culture, and the powdered and processed material produced for biodiesel production at the Flinders Bioprocessing Lab.

New research at Flinders University in South Australia has discovered a simple, low cost and effective way to extract high-value bioactives from single-cell algae oil — using waste sulfur from industries such as petrochemical production.

The innovative algae oil production process, described in the international journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, outlines the new method of using waste sulfur to produce enriched saturated triglycerides from sustainably produced algae oil.

The process uses a single reaction to simultaneously produce valuable polymers from polyunsaturated triglycerides and enrich saturated triglycerides for various value-added applications. The sulfur reaction can draw up to 90% of the unsaturated triglycerides from cultured single-cell algae.

“In this study, we build upon our body of work in sulfur chemistry to find an innovative way to process triglycerides from lipid-rich microalgae,” said Professor Justin Chalker, whose organic polymers have been adapted for environmental remediation, slow-release fertilizer, insulation, and e-waste.

“In this case, the algae oil is reacted with sulfur. The polyunsaturated triglycerides form polymers with many established uses, including environmental remediation. The saturated triglycerides remain unreacted in this process for recovery and ultimately conversion to value-added substances such as biodiesel,” Dr. Chalker said.

Thraustochytrids are especially attractive

Associate Professor Munish Puri, from Flinders University’s Bioprocessing Lab in Medical Biotechnology, has been working on single-cell oils to produce new materials suitable for nutritional supplements, animal-free meats, biodiesel, and other products.

“There is growing interest in the bio-based production of lipids from algae,” says Dr. Puri, who has a background in industrial biotechnology and is leading the precision fermentation platform for producing such oils. “Single-cell thraustochytrids are especially attractive in this regard, as they can produce over 50% of their weight as triglycerides.

“But despite their promise, there remains a need for versatile downstream processing to enrich these so-called “single-cell oils” into fatty acid classes based on degree of unsaturation. And that’s what this novel approach is helping to address.”

The article — Reaction of Sulfur and Sustainable Algae Oil for Polymer Synthesis and Enrichment of Saturated Triglycerides (2022) by Adarsha Gupta, Max J. H. Worthington, Harshal D. Patel, Martin R. Johnston, Munish Puri and Justin M. Chalker — has been published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.1c08139.

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