In this study, membrane-based methods were evaluated for the recovery of FucoPol, the fucose-rich exopolysaccharide (EPS) secreted by the bacterium Enterobacter
A47, aiming at reducing the total water consumption and extraction time, while keeping a high product recovery, thus making the downstream procedure more sustainable and cost-effective. The optimized method involved ultrafiltration of the cell-free supernatant using a 30 kDa molecular weight cut-off (MWCO) membrane that allowed for a 37% reduction of the total water consumption and a 55% reduction of the extraction time, compared to the previously used method (diafiltration-ultrafiltration with a 100 kDa MWCO membrane). This change in the downstream procedure improved the product’s recovery (around 10% increase) and its purity, evidenced by the lower protein (8.2 wt%) and inorganic salts (4.0 wt%) contents of the samples (compared to 9.3 and 8.6 wt%, respectively, for the previously used method), without impacting FucoPol’s sugar and acyl groups composition, molecular mass distribution or thermal degradation profile. The biopolymer’s emulsion-forming and stabilizing capacity was also not affected (emulsification activity (EA) with olive oil, at a 2:3 ratio, of 98 ± 0% for all samples), while the rheological properties were improved (the zero-shear viscosity increased from 8.89 ± 0.62 Pa·s to 17.40 ± 0.04 Pa·s), which can be assigned to the higher purity degree of the extracted samples. These findings demonstrate a significant improvement in the downstream procedure raising FucoPol’s recovery, while reducing water consumption and operation time, key criteria in terms of process economic and environmental sustainability. Moreover, those changes improved the biopolymer’s rheological properties, known to significantly impact FucoPol’s utilization in cosmetic, pharmaceutical or food products.
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