Enzymatic catalysis is one of the key processes for biochemical conversion in nature and of utmost importance for any form of life. The base for this kind of conversion is the enzyme itself, which is a very specialized protein targeting another molecule, peptide, or protein in a very specific way to convert it into a product with a minimum of activation energy. The latter point is very critical as it allows biochemical reactions at physiological conditions. This specialization to physiological conditions is, although beneficial for natural processes, very often a drawback for technological processes. Enzymes, being proteins, in most cases cannot resist serious deviations in temperature or pH values and degrade. This operating window of the enzymes limits their flexibility for ex vivo application in technical synthesis, food processing, etc., seriously.
Inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) are considered to be a very promising alternative to enzymes as they might increase the operating window for the catalytic reaction. The research direction resembles a sort of molecular biomimetics, since inorganic phases are supposed to mimic biomaterials (enzymes) in their function. Few examples of enzyme-mimicking inorganic nanoparticles have been investigated until now, with the most prominent particles consisting of Fe3O4, CeO2, or Pt.
This project aims to go far beyond the current state of the art. With protein-encapsulated inorganic nanoparticles the goal is one the one hand to gain knowledge on enzyme-analogue catalytic reactions with various inorganics and on the other hand to approach application fields of such composite inorganic enzymes by controlled modification of the protein shell they are embedded in.
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