IBioIC funding allows the testing of advanced techniques for seaweed extractions.

Marine Biopolymers Ltd (MBL), based in Ayr, Scotland, are leading the way in algal biorefinery. This SME has developed a unique algal extraction process which is capable of producing high value products such as alginate, used in a diverse range of industries including food, printing and the pharmaceutical industry. MBL, the University of Glasgow, the James Hutton Institute and Bangor University recently teamed up to investigate whether supercritical carbon dioxide might improve the extraction of compounds from seaweed.

What is supercritical carbon dioxide?

Boasting low toxicity and environmental impacts, supercritical CO2 has been shown to be an exciting, green method for extracting useful molecules from plants. Fluids become supercritical when they are heated under pressure so that they enter a state between liquid and gas. The expansion of the CO2 when it becomes supercritical breaks apart the plants, allowing useful molecules to be isolated without the use of toxic chemicals.

Does it work for seaweed?

In this project, researchers from Bangor University compared supercritical CO2 to traditional extraction methods on brown seaweed. The Welsh team passed the extracts on to their Scottish counterparts at Glasgow University and the James Hutton Institute, who looked at the number of compounds and measured the levels of the most interesting compounds.

The supercritical CO2 method did not provide advantages over more traditional extraction methods, ruling out this technology for MBL. The project did, however, provide interesting data on the range compounds in brown seaweed, which MBL might be able to exploit in the future.

Sustainable and environmentally friendly

Scottish seaweed is an exciting and sustainable potential source of a whole range of molecules. MBL are using the information gathered during this project to pioneer their technologies, which will reap benefits for the Scottish economy, people and the environment.


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