Separation and Quantification of Microalgal Carbohydrates

David W. Templeton, Matthew Quinn, Stefanie Van Wychen, Deborah Hyman, Lieve M.L. Laurens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus Citations


Structural carbohydrates can constitute a large fraction of the dry weight of algal biomass and thus accurate identification and quantification is important for summative mass closure. Two limitations to the accurate characterization of microalgal carbohydrates are the lack of a robust analytical procedure to hydrolyze polymeric carbohydrates to their respective monomers and the subsequent identification and quantification of those monosaccharides. We address the second limitation, chromatographic separation of monosaccharides, here by identifying optimum conditions for the resolution of a synthetic mixture of 13 microalgae-specific monosaccharides, comprised of 8 neutral, 2 amino sugars, 2 uronic acids and 1 alditol (myo-inositol as an internal standard). The synthetic 13-carbohydrate mix showed incomplete resolution across 11 traditional high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) methods, but showed improved resolution and accurate quantification using anion exchange chromatography (HPAEC) as well as alditol acetate derivatization followed by gas chromatography (for the neutral- and amino-sugars only). We demonstrate the application of monosaccharide quantification using optimized chromatography conditions after sulfuric acid analytical hydrolysis for three model algae strains and compare the quantification and complexity of monosaccharides in analytical hydrolysates relative to a typical terrestrial feedstock, sugarcane bagasse.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)225-234
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
StatePublished - 2012

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-56157


  • Alditol acetate derivatization
  • Anion exchange chromatography
  • Carbohydrate
  • Gas chromatography
  • Liquid chromatography
  • Microalgae


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