Integrated extraction and catalytic upgrading of microalgae lipids in supercritical carbon dioxide†
Fatty acids from microalgae are attractive compounds for catalytic upgrading to chemicals, but their extraction often requires multi-step procedures and the use of various organic solvents. To relieve this bottleneck, we propose a straightforward approach of combined extraction and catalytic functionalization via olefin cross-metathesis (ethenolysis and butenolysis) in supercritical CO2 (scCO2). This is demonstrated for Phaeodactylum tricornutum microalgae biomass. ScCO2 at optimum conditions (90 °C, 620 atm, ρ(CO2) = 0.90 g mL−1) extracted the lipids selectively and quantitatively from previously disrupted cells, while organic solvent extraction for comparison additionally extracted polar diacylglycerides and chlorophylls. In a one-pot approach, olefin cross-metathesis of the unsaturated fatty acids (FA16:1, FA18:1 and FA20:5) by alkenolysis yielded the desirable mid-chain olefin and unsaturated ester products. The product spectrum compares to alkenolysis of individual model compounds in scCO2 as well as of separately scCO2 extracted microalgae oil. Both these ethenolysis and butenolysis proceed with conversions of more than 81% and high selectivities to the desired products. This biorefinery approach was further illustrated by the simultaneous extraction and catalytic isomerizing alkoxycarbonylation in scCO2.