Novel macroalgae (seaweed) biorefinery systems for integrated chemical, protein, salt, nutrient and mineral extractions and environmental protection by green synthesis and life cycle sustainability assessments
Highly efficient macroalgae based chemical factories and environmental protection have been comprehensively studied for the first time to displace fossil resources to mitigate climate change impact. Wild macroalgae by (bio)phytoremediation and residual macroalgae by biosorption can be used to treat wastewaters, marine environment, soil and sludge. Cultured macroalgae can be processed through drying, milling, grinding, suspension in deionised water and filtration extracting sap of heavy metals; centrifugation of solids recovering nutrients; ion exchange resins of supernatants separating protein and polysaccharides; dialysis purifying protein from salts and pretreatment of polysaccharides producing a sugar platform. Protein profiling shows the presence of the essential amino acids as well as others as food additive, flavour enhancer and pharmaceutical ingredient. Sugars can be converted into a chemical: levulinic acid by controlled acid hydrolysis; 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid by heterogeneous catalytic reaction; succinic acid by tricarboxylic acid cycle; lactic acid by fermentation, with 3–5 times market value than bioethanol. Protein, sugar based chemical and inorganics give the highest to the lowest climate change impact savings of 12, 3 and 1 kg CO2 equivalent per kg product. Their cost of production is estimated at $2010 t−1, significantly lower than their market prices, making the integrated marine biorefinery system economically more attractive than lignocellulosic terrestrial biorefinery systems. Social life cycle assessment indicates that the highest to the lowest avoided social impacts will be from the displacements of animal based protein, sugars and minerals, in Indonesia, China and Philippines (producing 27 million tonnes per annum, 93% of global production).