Continuous extraction and concentration of secreted metabolites from engineered microbes using membrane technology

Sebastian Overmans, Gergo Ignacz, Aron K. Beke, Jiajie Xu, Pascal E. Saikaly, Gyorgy Szekely*, Kyle J. Lauersen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Microalgal cultivation in photobioreactors and membrane separations are both considered sustainable processes. Here we explore their synergistic combination to extract and concentrate a heterologous sesquiterpenoid produced by engineered green algal cells. A hydrophobic hollow-fiber membrane contactor was used to allow interaction of culture broth and cells with a dodecane solvent phase to accumulate algal produced patchoulol. Subsequent continuous membrane extraction of patchoulol from dodecane enabled product concentration in a methanol stream as well as dodecane recovery for its reuse. A structure-based prediction using machine learning was employed to model a process whereby 100% patchoulol recovery from dodecane could be achieved with solvent-resistant nanofiltration membranes. Solvent consumption, E-factor, and economic sustainability were assessed and compared with existing patchoulol production processes. Our extraction and product purification process offers six- and two-orders of magnitude lower solvent consumption compared to synthetic production and thermal-based separation, respectively. Our proposed methodology is transferable to other microbial systems for the isolation of high-value isoprenoid and hydrocarbon products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5479-5489
Number of pages11
JournalGreen Chemistry
Issue number14
StatePublished - May 18 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution


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