Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, 149 EB Doran Bldg., LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, United States. Electronic address: [Email]
Lipids extracted from algal biomass could provide an abundant, rapidly growing, high yield feedstock for bio-diesel and other green fuels to supplement current fossil-based sources. Ultrasound pretreatment is a mechanical cell disruption method that has been shown to enhance lipid recovery from algae due to cavitation effects that disrupt algae cell walls. In this study, a locally grown mixture of Chlorella vulgaris/Cyanobacteria leptolyngbya was sonicated in an ultrasonic reactor with a clamp-on transducer prior to solvent lipid extraction. This configuration allows for a non-contact delivery method of ultrasonic energy with improved operational advantages (no fouling of transducer, continuous operation, and fully scalable design). A central composite design (CCD) was implemented to statistically analyze and evaluate the effect of ultrasonic power (350-750 W) and treatment time (5-30 min) on lipid yield. Lipid recovery was found to increase with both ultrasonic power and treatment time. Total lipid yields (on dry biomass basis) extracted via the Bligh and Dyer method from Chlorella vulgaris/cyanobacteria co-culture ranged from 8.3% for untreated algae to 16.9% for algae sonicated with 750 W power for 30 min, which corresponds to more than a doubling of lipid recovery due to ultrasound pretreatment. Increased power and treatment times were found to increase the degree of cell disruption as observed in the SEM and TEM images after ultrasonic pretreatment. Additionally, hexane (1:1 v/v) was evaluated as an alternative to the standard Bligh & Dyer (2:2:1.8 v/v/v chloroform/methanol/cell suspension) lipid extraction solvent system. On average, the Bligh and Dyer method extracted on average over twice the amount of lipids compared to hexane extraction. The lipid profile of the algae extracts indicates high concentrations of lauric acid (12:0), palmitic acid (16:0), stearic acid (18:0), oleic acid (18:1), and linoleic acid (18:2). This particular configuration of an ultrasonic system proved to be a viable method for the pretreatment of algae for enhanced lipid yields. Future research should focus on identifying alternative extraction solvents and expanding the range of treatment conditions to optimize the ultrasonic power and treatment times for maximum lipid recovery.