Industrial Liaison Office

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Biocatalysis for industry

Distribution of 3-nitroproprionic acid over a section of the immobilisation matrix Distribution of 3-nitroproprionic acid over a section of the immobilisation matrix

In order to promote the economic exploitation of biomass and agroindustrial by-products, such as sugars, cellulose, starch and oils, new biocatalytic processes involving enzymatic catalysts are under study.
These processes are often not competitive with those of classic chemistry because of the poor efficiency of the biocatalysts currently available.
Increased enzymatic stability will be required for use in industrial processes, along with the possibility of recovery and recycling. Properties of this kind are crucial to the productivity of the catalyst and hence to the cost of enzyme per kilogram of final product. The problems of producing biocatalysts with these properties can sometimes be surmounted by attaching the enzymes involved in the catalysis process to insoluble solid support structures.


Elettra's contribution
The immobilisation of an enzyme upon a support structure creates a catalytic system distinctly different from a native enzyme, while the solid support often reduces its diffusion and hence its efficiency.
Diffusion processes can be studied, and their efficiency assessed, through the use of FT (Fourier Transformed) infrared spectroscopy with synchrotron light.
In a pilot study carried out at Elettra on 3-nitropropionic acid bound to an immobilisation support, the kinetics of its diffusion within a porous matrix could be followed visually.
Because of the greater sensitivity of this technique, and the extreme intensity of synchrotron light, it is possible to produce high resolution spectra that can furnish otherwise inaccessible information, thus providing a new, effective and speedy approach to the study of the diffusion mechanisms of these new biocatalysts.


Facility: SISSI Beamline
Immobilizzazione di enzimi. Ottimizzazione di biocatalizzatori industriali; L. Gardossi, C. Ebert, V. Ferrario, P. Braluca, A. Basso, L. Vaccari; La chimica e l'Industria; gennaio-febbraio p. 106; 2008.