WP6 Biocatalytic Screening Toolbox

Partners involved: TUB (WP leader), DTU, UCL,TUG (Nidetzky), UL, Micronit, iX-factory, ChipShop, BioNem, UOULU, NanoMyP, CerCell.

The main objective of WP6 is to enhance the capacity of MBR for the rapid screening of biocatalysts. A range of standard unit operation building blocks, arranged over a flexible miniaturized platform, will be designed and tested.

The potential impact of microtechnology based process development is significant, which is one of the reasons why a large amount of research groups have focused on this technology over the last decades. Today there is almost no topic within the chemical and biochemical engineering sciences where this technology has not been applied. However, the actual amount of blockbuster inventions using this technology is still very sparse and limited to only a few products, which have made it all the way to commercialisation. On the other hand, diagnostic and analytical methods have used microtechnological features long before the research community discovered this field (e.g. flow cytometry, HPLC or chromatography methods). There are many reasons for this and the interpretations are not uniform. However one of the recurrent arguments against microtechnological problem solutions is the practical handling and similar issues connected to the operation of these systems. Typical challenges include:

  • sample pretreatment or posttreatment,
  • screening material introduction and removal,
  • coupling with standard laboratory measurements or development and linking of on-chip-analytics.
  • evaporation/condensation/bubbles/particles and
  • fluidic control (integrated microvalves, pump control issues etc.).     

EUROMBR will screen novel intensified biocatalytic processes, where the reaction step might be integrated with one or several purification steps to recover products and/or remove inhibitory substances. The project will deliver a basic process development platform toolbox composed of miniaturized units which can be used to quickly and quantitatively assess different process configurations while using minimal amounts of biocatalyst (entrapped on reactor wall or immobilized on fluidized microparticles) and time. It is intended to contribute to the intensification of biocatalytic processes by use of integrated technological methods with strong links between catalyst and process development. This is crucial in order to obtain feasible processes rapidly and economically. This will be achieved by developing the small scale equipment as well as rational experimentation protocols that rapidly and accurately can generate data for processes and catalyst characterization and development.

Research plan

The flexible miniaturized platform will be developed by Micronit, ChipShop and iX-factory in collaboration with the university partners (DTU, UCL, UL, TUB, TUG, UOULU and the spin-off company nanoMyP), to include standard unit operations which might be heat exchangers, membrane systems, extraction, pertraction, evaporation and pervaporation and resin based recovery in batch, fed batch and continuous mode. Different units will be assembled by user friendly “Lego - plug and play” to easily set-up different integration options. A special focus area will be the interfacing with WP8 such that the microsystems can easily be coupled with either standard measurement equipment (e.g. HPLC, UV spectrophotometers, LC-MS etc.) or the developed on-chip sensor systems of WP 8 can be integrated into the system. 

The microfluidic toolbox will then be verified in a range of different test cases, which are relevant for the biocatalytic conversion of WP7. This will with a high probability include the immobilisation of enzymes in the microsystems, downstream processing and in situ product removal as well as solvent screening for the desired process. This workpackage will connect WP7 and WP8 with each other and will therefore function as a turntable between the different research topics.