Polyhydroxyalkanoates from A Mixed Microbial Culture: Extraction Optimization and Polymer Characterization

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Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are biopolymers with potential to replace conventional oil-based plastics. However, PHA high production costs limit their scope of commercial applications. Downstream processing is currently the major cost factor for PHA production but one of the least investigated aspects of the PHA production chain. In this study, the extraction of poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) produced at pilot scale by a mixed microbial culture was performed using sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) as digestion agents of non-PHA cellular mass. Optimal conditions for digestion with NaOH (0.3 M, 4.8 h) and NaClO (9.0%, 3.4 h) resulted in polymers with a PHA purity and recovery of ca. 100%, in the case of the former and ca. 99% and 90%, respectively, in the case of the latter. These methods presented higher PHA recoveries than extraction by soxhlet with chloroform, the benchmark protocol for PHA extraction. The polymers extracted by the three methods presented similar PHA purities, molecular weights and polydispersity indices. Using the optimized conditions for NaOH and NaClO digestions, this study analyzed the effect of the initial intracellular PHA content (40–70%), biomass concentration (20–100 g/L) and biomass pre-treatment (fresh vs. dried vs. lyophilized) on the performance of PHA extraction by these two methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2155
Number of pages22
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2022


  • chemical digestion
  • design of experiments
  • PHA extraction
  • polymer properties


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