Integrated biorefinery approach to valorise Saccharina latissima biomass: Combined sustainable processing to produce biologically active fucoxanthin, mannitol, fucoidans and alginates

Con Robert McElroy, Liliya Kopanitsa, Roel Helmes, Jiajun Fan, Thomas M. Attard, Rachael Simister, Sander van den Burg, Graham Ladds, David S. Bailey, Leonardo D. Gomez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The feasibility of European seaweed farming depends on the valorisation of algal biomass harvested. In the present work we have combined sequential extraction processes from Saccharina latissima to produce a range of products, focusing on the extraction of fucoxanthin using supercritical CO2 followed by different valorisation routes. We optimised the conditions the for extraction of fucoxanthin (40 MPa, temperature has little impact on extraction) and the extracts obtained were tested on cancer cell cultures to determine the antiproliferative effects of this pigment. We established that the supercritical CO2 extracts have an antiproliferative effect similar to that of commercial fucoxanthin (concentrations 0.1–0.4 mg/mL) and showed that the active compound in the extracts is fucoxanthin. In order to integrate this process with a holistic valorisation of the algal biomass, we explored the extraction of mannitol using a microwave-assisted protocol (4.15 wt % yield). We also evaluated the potential extraction of fucoidans and alginates from the solids remaining after supercritical CO2 extraction (67.27 to 69.38 % of alginates). A life cycle analysis of the supercritical CO2 extraction proposed shows that the drying process of algal biomass and the energy used to compress the CO2 are the elements with the highest environmental impact (over 90% of CO2 eq/g of extract) in this the process, indicating routes for reducing the environmental footprint. Combining supercritical CO2 extraction and microwave-assisted extraction methods would enable European seaweed producers to obtain multiple marketable products from algal biomass.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103014
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Technology and Innovation
Early online date23 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Author(s).
Funding Information:
This project was supported by the H2020 project GENIALG (Grant Agreement No 727892 ) and by a grant from the Biomass Biorefinery Network (BBNet), a BBSRC/EPSRC funded Network in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (BBSRC NIBB) BB/S009779/1 . We are very grateful to Seaweed Solutions for the provision of materials for the project.


  • Alginate
  • Anticancer activity
  • Biorefinery
  • Fucoidan
  • Fucoxanthin
  • Life cycle analysis
  • Saccharina latissima
  • Supercritical CO extraction

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