Enzyme-Assisted Extraction of Ulvan from the Green Macroalgae Ulva fenestrata
Ulvan is a sulfated polysaccharide extracted from green macroalgae with unique structural and compositional properties. Due to its biocompatibility, biodegradability, and film-forming properties, as well as high stability, ulvan has shown promising potential as an ingredient of biopolymer films such as sustainable and readily biodegradable biomaterials that could replace petroleum-based plastics in diverse applications such as packaging. This work investigates the potential of Ulva fenestrata as a source of ulvan. Enzyme-assisted extraction with commercial cellulases (Viscozyme L and Cellulysin) and proteases (Neutrase 0.8L and Flavourzyme) was used for cell wall disruption, and the effect of the extraction time (3, 6, 17, and 20 h) on the ulvan yield and its main characteristics (molecular weight, functional groups, purity, and antioxidant capacity) were investigated. Furthermore, a combined process based on enzymatic and ultrasound extraction was performed. Results showed that higher extraction times led to higher ulvan yields, reaching a maximum of 14.1% dw with Cellulysin after 20 h. The combination of enzymatic and ultrasound-assisted extraction resulted in the highest ulvan extraction (17.9% dw). The relatively high protein content in U. fenestrata (19.8% dw) makes the residual biomass, after ulvan extraction, a potential protein source in food and feed applications.