Microalgae-derived lipids are good sources of biofuel, but extracting them involves high cost, energy expenditure, and environmental risk. Surfactant treatment to disrupt Scenedesmus biomass was evaluated as a means to make solvent extraction more efficient. Surfactant treatment increased the recovery of fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) by as much as 16-fold vs. untreated biomass using isopropanol extraction, and nearly 100% FAME recovery was possible without any Folch solvent, which is toxic and expensive. Surfactant treatment caused cell disruption and morphological changes to the cell membrane, as documented by transmission electron microscopy and flow cytometry. Surfactant treatment made it possible to extract wet biomass at room temperature, which avoids the expense and energy cost associated with heating and drying of biomass during the extraction process. The best FAME recovery was obtained from high-lipid biomass treated with Myristyltrimethylammonium bromide (MTAB)- and 3-(decyldimethylammonio)-propanesulfonate inner salt (3-DAPS)-surfactants using a mixed solvent (hexane:isopropanol = 1:1, v/v) vortexed for just 1 min; this was as much as 160-fold higher than untreated biomass. The critical micelle concentration of the surfactants played a major role in dictating extraction performance, but the growth stage of the biomass had an even larger impact on how well the surfactants disrupted the cells and improved lipid extraction. Surfactant treatment had minimal impact on extracted-FAME profiles and, consequently, fuel-feedstock quality. This work shows that surfactant treatment is a promising strategy for more efficient, sustainable, and economical extraction of fuel feedstock from microalgae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1319-1326
Number of pages8
JournalGreen Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution


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