Electroporation of Algae
As a crucial alternative to petroleum liquid fuels and first generation biodiesel, microalgae represent the most promising renewable source of lipids, thought to be capable of meeting global transportation fuel needs. The most promising characteristics of this alternative energy source are its CO2 neutrality, high biomass growth, high lipid yield, and noncompetitive stance toward food supply. To date, development of economically feasible lipid solvent extraction processes of industrial scale face two significant challenges: green solvent selection with efficient extractive characteristics and requirement of cell disruption pretreatment. This research focuses on the use of greener solvents coupled with the novel utilization of Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) as a membrane permeating technique for extraction intensification. This technology can be applied to increase extraction efficiency not only for lipids but for other compounds that can be used for higher value products.
Microscopy using calcein acetoxymethyl (live stain – green color) and propidium iodide (dead stain – red color) was used to demonstrate the effects of exposing algae to a pulsed electric field (PEF) pretreatment. Utilizing PEF resulted in 90% cell lysis (C) and significant enhancement in the rate of lipid recovery using ethyl acetate compared to the fresh algae (A) and algae exposed to increased temperature (B). PEF technology can be used to design a continuous lipid extraction process using a green solvent.