Efficient extraction of lipids from primary sewage sludge using ionic liquids for biodiesel production

Magdalena Olkiewicz, Natalia V. Plechkova, Azael Fabregat, Frank Stüber, Agustí Fortuny, Josep Font, Christophe Bengoa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


This study proposes a novel method to extract lipids from wet primary sludge for biodiesel production using ionic liquids. Tetrakis(hydroxymethyl)phosphonium chloride and widely used 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium methyl sulfate were evaluated to extract lipids from raw and dried sludge (96% and 2%, wt. water content, respectively) and compared to the conventional Soxhlet method using organic solvents. Both these ionic liquids showed suitability for lipid extraction from raw sludge, giving even better results than expected from dried sludge. The [C4mim][MeSO4] ionic liquid reached 18.5% and 26.9% of lipids, 14.1% and 18.4% of biodiesel from dried and raw sludge, respectively. The [P(CH2OH)4]Cl ionic liquid gained 23.4% and 27.6% of lipids, 17.0% and 19.8% of biodiesel from dried and raw sludge respectively, reaching comparable results to the conventional Soxhlet method (27.2% of lipids, 19.4% of biodiesel). Therefore, the proposed ionic liquid process is efficient in lipid extraction directly from wet primary sludge, eliminating the expensive step of sludge drying and the use of volatile organic solvents. Under the optimised extraction conditions using [P(CH2OH)4]Cl ionic liquid and raw sludge (1:5 sludge (g/TS):IL (cm3) ratio, 100 °C and 3 h), the obtained yield of lipids and biodiesel amounted to 25.7% and 21.1%, respectively. Additionally, lipid extraction using [P(CH2OH)4]Cl ionic liquid also precipitates cellulosic material, which allows for direct and easy cellulose-based co-product recovery, giving high additional value to the process. Consequently, the economic and environmental aspects of biodiesel production from sewage sludge could be improved.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12525
Pages (from-to)118-125
Number of pages8
JournalSeparation and Purification Technology
Early online date28 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2015


  • Biodiesel
  • Cellulosic material
  • Ionic liquid
  • Lipid extraction
  • Primary sludge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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