Lipid extraction from the microalga Phaeodactylum tricornutum



Ethanol was used for the extraction and purification of lipids from the biomass of the microalga Phaeodactylum tricornutum. This microalga is an oil-rich substrate with a high proportion of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The process consisted of two steps. First, ethanol (96% vol/vol) was used to extract the lipids from the lyophilized biomass. Second, a biphasic system was formed by adding water and hexane to the extracted crude oil. In this way, most of the lipids were transferred to the hexanic phase while most impurities remained in the hydroalcoholic phase. The first step was carried out by two consecutive extractions at room temperature, each with 5 mL ethanol per gram of biomass, for 10 and 1.25 h, respectively. Under these conditions, over 90% of the saponifiable lipids in the biomass were extracted. In the second step, the percentage of water in the hydroalcoholic phase, the hexane/hydroalcoholic phase ratio and the number of extraction steps were optimized. A water content of 40% vol/vol in the hydroalcoholic phase provided the highest lipid recovery. A recovery yield of 80% was obtained by four consecutive extractions with a hexane/hydroalcoholic phase ratio of 0.2 (vol/vol). Equilibrium distribution data of the lipids between the hydroethanolic and the hexanic phases were also obtained in order to predict the lipid recovery yield of the extraction. This process is an alternative to the traditional methods of lipid extraction, which uses less toxic solvents and reduces the total amount of solvents used.