Optimization of the yield and quality of agar fromGracilariopsis lemaneiformis(Gracilariales) from the Gulf of California using an alkaline treatment

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The effect of several alkali treatments on the yield, gel strength, rheology, and chemical characteristics (quality) of the agar obtained from Gracilariopsis lemaneiformis from the Gulf of California was analyzed using different alkali concentrations, temperatures and treatment times. In the first stage of the experiment, all treatments lasted 60 min and the NaOH concentrations (2.5, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, 6.0%) and temperature (80, 90, 100°C) varied. At constant time, temperature played the predominant role, promoting an increase in agar gel strength. Based on the best treatment conditions found (4% and 5% NaOH, and 90°C and 100°C temperature), in the second stage different treatment times (15, 30, 60, 90, 120 min) were used. Since agar yields were not significantly different among temperatures and times, the optimal conditions to obtain best quality agar were those providing the highest gel strength. Treatment time played an important role in increasing gel strength. Maximum gel strength (Nikan, 954 g cm-2) was obtained with 5% NaOH at 100°C after 90 min of treatment, though these conditions resulted in an agar yield reduction of 25.5% relative to native agar. This treatment proved to efficiently yield G. lemaneiformis agar that will meet the commercial quality requirements regarding gel strength, 3,6 anhydrogalactose and sulfate content, as well as rheology and hysteresis.

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