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Membrane fractionation of bioMolecules from Microalgae for FOOD, health and enerGY : characterisation of the membrane fouling.

logo RFI FT/Cap Aliment
Membrane filtration applied to the fractionation of microalgae: towards the development of a clean, sober and gentle process to enhance biomolecules of nutritional, pharmaceutical or cosmetic interest by reducing membrane fouling.

Microalgae are new bio-resources with high potential for nutrition, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals because they are rich in lipids that carry polyunsaturated fatty acids, proteins and antioxidants.
The use of these resources requires the implementation of innovative processes for the cultivation and biorefinery of microalgae, making it possible to guarantee the integrity of fragile molecules and to limit water use and energy consumption (sustainable wet biorefinery processes).
Membrane filtration is a promising separation process for the concentration and purification of biomolecules. However, the implementation of the process is difficult due to the complexity of the mixture of molecules and algae cell debris to be fractionated and the interactions between the compounds and the filtration membranes that promote their fouling.

graphical abstract

The objective of the project is to better understand the behaviour of lipids and algal proteins in complex dispersion during membrane filtration. Microalgae extracts will be produced on the Algosolis platform and then treated by membrane filtration.

Membrane fouling will be characterized using three methods that will be specifically developed in collaboration with the ISCR and UPV: i) sessile drop analysis to verify the evolution of membrane hydrophilicity, ii) Attenuated total reflectance spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) to identify, locate and quantify molecules on the membrane, and iii) electrokinetic property measurements to assess the impact on membrane load and locate fouling.

Model mixtures will also be studied in parallel to understand the mechanisms involved and facilitate the development of the process. These complex mixtures and the extracts obtained will be characterized within the BIA and GEPEA units in order to validate the sober and innovative separation process allowing the production of fractions rich in biomolecules of interest.

  • Duration of the project: 24 months
  • Coordination : CNRS GEPEA (project owner: Estelle Couallier)
  • Academic partners:
    • INRA BIA
    • Institut des Sciences Chimiques de Rennes (ISCR, France)
    • Université Polytechnique de Valence (UPV, Spain)
  • Budget: 112 000 € incl.  85 000 € from RFI and a cofunding from Université Bretagne Loire (UBL, France).