Adsorption on a functionalized surface can be an effective way of purifying polyphenols from complex plant extracts. Polymeric resins that rely on hydrophobic interactions suffer from low selectivity, weak affinity towards polyphenols, and lack tunability therefore making the purification of polyphenols less efficient. In this study, a purification process for the recovery of polyphenols from grape pomace extract was successfully developed using hydrogen bonding affinity ligands grafted on silica particles and PEG-assisted elution solvents. Bare silica (SiO2
) and polyethylene glycol (mPEG)-grafted silica microparticles with molecular weights of 2000 and 5000 were tested to determine their polyphenol binding and release characteristics. Functionalizing the surface of bare silica with mPEG ligands increased the adsorption capacity by 7.1- and 11.4-fold for mPEG-2000 and mPEG-5000 compared to bare silica particles, respectively. This was likely due to the introduction of more polyphenol binding sites with mPEG functionalization. Altering the molecular weight (MW) of mPEG grafted on silica surfaces provided tunability in the adsorption capacity. A complete recovery of polyphenols (~99.9%) from mPEG-grafted silica particles was achieved by utilizing PEG–ethanol or PEG–water cosolvent systems. Recovered polyphenols showed up to ~12-fold antioxidant activity compared to grape pomace extract. This study demonstrates that mPEG-grafted silica particles and elution of polyphenols with PEG cosolvents can potentially be used for large-scale purification of polyphenols from complex plant extracts and simplify the use of polyphenols, as PEG facilitates remarkable solvation and is an ideal medium for the final formulation of polyphenols.
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