Microalgae contain an abundance of valuable bioactive compounds such as chlorophylls, carotenoids, and phenolics and, consequently, present great commercial interest. The aim of this work is the study and optimization of recovering the aforementioned components from the microalgae species Chlorella vulgaris through conventional extraction in a laboratory-scale apparatus using a "green" mixture of ethanol/water 90/10 v/v. The effect of three operational conditions-namely, temperature (30-60 °C), duration (6-24 h) and solvent-to-biomass ratio (20-90 mLsolv/gbiom), was examined regarding the extracts' yield (gravimetrically), antioxidant activity, phenolic, chlorophyll, and carotenoid contents (spectrophotometric assays), as well as concentration in key carotenoids, i.e., astaxanthin, lutein, and β-carotene (reversed-phase-high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC)). For this purpose, a face-centered central composite design (FC-CCD) was employed. Data analysis resulted in the optimal extraction conditions of 30 °C, for 24 h with 37 mLsolv/gbiom and validation of the predicted models led to 15.39% w/w yield, 52.58 mgextr/mgDPPH (IC50) antioxidant activity, total phenolic, chlorophyll, and carotenoid content of 18.23, 53.47 and 9.92 mg/gextr, respectively, and the total sum of key carotenoids equal to 4.12 mg/gextr. The experimental data and predicted results were considered comparable, and consequently, the corresponding regression models were sufficiently reliable for prediction.
Keywords: antioxidant activity; carotenoids; chlorophylls; extraction optimization; green solvents; microalgae; phenolics.