Is water affecting your biocatalytic reaction?

There are many industrial applications of biocatalysis such as esterification and amide formation that involve water as a by-product. One good example is the production of Capsaicin. The increasing concentration of water typically promotes the reverse reaction (hydrolysis), causing lower yields and reaction rates. In this insight, we'll discuss about how water impacts the biocatalytic reactions with some examples.

Is it good or bad?

Research from Lund University showed that the effect of water activity on an enzymatic transesterification was two-sided: "Water is needed initially to start the reaction and maintain enzyme activity but has a negative effect on both the yield and product quality towards the end of the reaction." Read the full article here.

Removing water

The challenges with the water by-product can be overcome by removing the water continuously, and restoring a favorable equilibrium position toward the product side of the reaction. A strategy commonly deployed in industry is evaporation. The combination of heating and applying vacuum to the reactor will enhance the evaporation even far below the normal boiling point at 100°C. SpinChem's reactors are suitable for connecting to vacuum systems.

Another tool for removing water is molecular sieves. These are solid materials made from minerals, with well-defined pore sizes that can bind molecules of a specific size selectively from a mixture. The H20 molecules are trapped in the structure of the molecular sieves, which can bind as much water as 15% of their own weight.

Molecular sieves

Avoiding grinding

As effective as they are, molecular sieves are also brittle. Propeller blades and magnetic stir bars will chip away at the particles, producing fines that are hard to separate. Using a rotating bed reactor the material is protected from mechanical forces, preventing the breakdown.

The rotating bed reactor (RBR) simplifies downstream processing and makes solids such as molecular sieves feasible in applications they would otherwise contaminate.

Do you have a biocatalytic application that could be improved?

Use a rotating bed reactor to screen for optimal reaction conditions, then use the same technology to manufacture on industrial scale. Ask us how!

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