This work proposes a way to maximize the potential of a Nannochloropsis sp. biorefinery process, through membrane technology, producing an extract enriched in soluble proteins, free from the insoluble protein fraction, with a low lipid content and eliminating the colored chlorophyll-a. This procedure, following the principles of a circular economy approach, allows for the valorization of a stream from the biorefining of Nannochloropsis sp. that, otherwise, would be considered a residue without commercial value. The process proposed minimizes fouling phenomena at the membrane surface, making it possible to achieve high permeate fluxes, thus reducing the need for membrane cleaning and, therefore, contributing to an extended membrane lifetime. Supernatant obtained after centrifugation of a suspension of ruptured Nannochloropsis sp. cells was processed by ultrafiltration using a membrane with a cut-off of 100 kDa MWCO. Two different operating approaches were evaluated—controlled transmembrane pressure and controlled permeate flux—under concentration and diafiltration modes. Ultrafiltration operated in a diafiltration mode, under controlled permeate flux conditions, led to the highest soluble protein recovery (78%) with the highest constant permeate flux (12 L·m−2·h−1 ) and low membrane fouling.
- circular economy
- controlled permeate flux
- controlled transmembrane pressure
- Nannochloropsis sp
- protein recovery