Chemo-enzymatic epoxidation–process options for improving biocatalytic productivity



The reactor choice is crucial when designing a process where inactivation of the biocatalyst is a problem. The main bottleneck for the chemo-enzymatic epoxidation has been found to be enzyme inactivation by the hydrogen peroxide, H2O2, substrate. In the work reported here, the effect of reaction parameters on the reaction performance have been investigated and used to establish suitable operating strategies to minimize the inactivation of the enzyme, using rapeseed methyl ester (RME) as a substrate in a solvent-free system. The use of a controlled fed-batch reactor for maintaining H2O2 concentration at 1.5 M resulted in increased productivity, up to 76 grams of product per gram of biocatalyst with higher retention of enzyme activity. Further investigation included a multistage design that separated the enzymatic reaction and the saturation of the RME substrate with H2O2 into different vessels. This setup showed that the reaction rate as well as enzyme inactivation is strongly dependent on the H2O2 concentration. A 20-fold improvement in enzymatic efficiency is required for reaching an economically feasible process. This will require a combination of enzyme modification and careful process design. © 2010 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2011