Biofuels – Flinders University discovers inexpensive way to extract bioactives from single-cell algal oil

To save the world’s fish stocks and oceans, scientists are racing to find better and sustainable ways to make healthy nutritional products such as omega-3 fatty acids, biodiesel, aquaculture and livestock feeds at from fast-growing microalgae.

The innovative process, described in the international journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, describes the new method of using waste sulfur to produce enriched saturated triglycerides from sustainably produced algal 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 derive up to 90% of unsaturated triglycerides from cultured single-celled algae.

“In this study, we build on 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 sanitation, slow-release fertilizers, insulation. and electronic waste. “In this case, the algae oil is reacted with sulphur. Polyunsaturated triglycerides form polymers with many established uses, such as environmental remediation. Saturated triglycerides remain unreacted in this process, for recovery and ultimate conversion into value-added substances such as biodiesel.

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

“There is a growing interest in bio-based production of lipids from algae,” said Professor Puri, who has a background in industrial biotechnology and leads the precision fermentation platform for the production of such oils at the ‘Flinders University. “Single-celled thraustochytrids are particularly 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-celled” oils into classes of fatty acids based on the degree of unsaturation. And that’s what this new approach helps solve.

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

Image: Associate Professor Munish Puri, researcher in medical biotechnology, and Dr Adarsha Gupta, researcher at the Bioprocessing Lab, with locally sourced Australian microalgae in culture.

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