Optimization of Astaxanthin Recovery in the Downstream Process of Haematococcus pluvialis

Foods. 2022 May 6;11(9):1352. doi: 10.3390/foods11091352.


Astaxanthin derived from Haematococcus pluvialis is a valuable metabolite applied in a wide range of products. Its extraction depends on a sophisticated series of downstream process steps, including harvesting, disruption, drying, and extraction, of which some are dependent on each other. To determine the processes that yield maximum astaxanthin recovery, bead milling, high-pressure homogenization, and no disruption of H. pluvialis biomass were coupled with spray-drying, vacuum-drying, and freeze-drying in all possible combinations. Eventually, astaxanthin was extracted using supercritical CO2. Optimal conditions for spray-drying were evaluated through the design of experiments and standard least squares regression (feed rate: 5.8 mL/min, spray gas flow: 400 NL/h, inlet temperature: 180 °C). Maximal astaxanthin recoveries were yielded using high-pressure homogenization and lyophilization (85.4%). All combinations of milling or high-pressure homogenization and lyophilization or spray-drying resulted in similar recoveries. Bead milling and spray-drying repeated with a larger spray-dryer resulted in similar astaxanthin recoveries compared with the laboratory scale. Smaller astaxanthin recoveries after the extraction of vacuum-dried biomass were mainly attributed to textural changes. Evaluation of these results in an economic context led to a recommendation for bead milling and spray-drying prior to supercritical CO2 extraction to achieve the maximum astaxanthin recoveries.

Keywords: UHPLC-PDA-MS; carotenoids; disruption; drying; economic feasibility; isomerization; microalgae; supercritical CO2 extraction.