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Composite materials for the immobilisation of biocatalysts

Final Report Summary - COMBIO (Composite Materials for the Immobilisation of Biocatalysts)

Biocatalytic production processes are established in a number of industrial manufacturing and process sectors (e.g. chemical, pharmaceutical, textile, food). Until recently, biocatalysis in manufacture has been based mainly on use of whole microorganisms or low cost enzymes. The use of immobilised biocatalysts extends the type of accessible reactor systems, facilitates clean product recovery, and can reduce production costs by making an (expensive) biocatalyst reusable.

However, the commercial availability of immobilised biocatalysts (enzymes) is limited in the types of carrier commercially available, the classes of enzymes immobilised, and the costs of the immobilised formulations. The aim of this two year project was to enable a substantial increase in the rate and extent of the uptake of biocatalysis processes by industry by developing a range of cost-effective enzyme stabilisation and immobilisation technologies which can be applied to commercial processes.

The COMBIO project focused on using support materials and novel internal cross-linking methods where the enzyme becomes its own support to develop and maintain micro-environments with enhanced stability and catalytic functionality. Although one major target was enhancement in performance of biocatalysts in the application of the synthesis of fine chemicals, the potential applicability of the technology is very broad. Within this project applications were being developed for the immobilised enzymes in processes as diverse as food manufacture, textile processing and fuel cell components. Development of these immobilisation protocols also has potential commercial applications in the production of novel enzyme-coated materials for other applications.

Extension of the working life of the immobilised catalysts achieved by the combination of stabilisation / immobilisation can also be exploited in the development of new reactor types where process intensification can be achieved, and supported catalysts can be physically retained to ensure pure, enzyme-free product streams. The immobilised biocatalysts developed in COMBIO are designed to be applied in familiar chemical reactor types such as stirred tanks, packed beds and fluidised beds. Incorporation of magnetic particles in the supports has also been demonstrated.

This not only assists in the retention / reuse of the biocatalyst, but also allows the development of novel Magnetically stabilised fluidised bed reactors (MSFBR) for chemical processes requiring efficient mass transfer.