Enzyme Reaction UK Researchers Develop New Enzyme Reactor Technology

Editor: Tobias Hüser

Researchers from the University of Bath in the UK have developed a new enzymatic process intensification technology that is one of only a few technologies available for accelerating the rate of an enzyme reaction.

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Researchers of the University of Bath developed a new enzyme reactor technology
Researchers of the University of Bath developed a new enzyme reactor technology
(Picture: Takeda)

Bath/UK – Drs Emma Emanuelsson and Darrell Patterson developed the "Spinning Cloth Dis Reactor" (SCDR) in the University of Bath´s Department of Chemical Engineering. The SCDR is simple: based on but extending the principles of the conventional Spinning Disc Reactor (SDR), the SCDR also uses centrifugal forces to allow the spread of a thin film across a spinning horizontal disc. However this disc has a cloth with immobilized enzyme resting on top of it.

The SCDR therefore produces a flow of thin film both on top of, as well as through the enzyme-immobilised cloth, providing a large interfacial surface area for the reaction. Patterson said: “Our work has shown that this system produces enhanced reaction rates compared to conventional enzyme reaction systems. Our initial work has been on the conversion of a simple oil system (tributyrin hydrolysis), which shows us if the reactor could be used practically for the treatment of oily wastewaters for example.“

Higher Conversion and Reaction Rates

The reseachers found out, that the conversion and reaction rates in the SCDR were significantly higher than that in a conventional batch stirred tank reactor under comparable conditions. It was also simple to control – disc/cloth spinning speed and reactor feed flow rate gave good control of reaction rate and conversion.

“Many enzyme reactors suffer from a loss of enzyme activity over many cycles of reaction due to deactivation – and one would perhaps expect this to be the case in a rotating reactor, where enzymes would be deactivated by shear", added Emanuelsson. The immobilized lipase showed excellent stability to repeat reactions in the SCDR: "For the tributyrin system, 80 % of the original lipase activity was retained after 15 consecutive runs“, said Emanuelsson.

Reaction Rates Five Times Higher

The team has also demonstrated the robustness of the SCDR to industry relevant feeds through the successful hydrolysis of different vegetable oils at reaction rates five times higher than other reactors. Furthermore, a residence time distribution and flow analysis study showed that the SCDR is not quite like other rotating reactors - such as conventional spinning disc reactors and rotating packed bed reactors.

Dr Patterson said: “Our results have shown that the SCDR is a separate class of spinning disc-type reactor for process intensification. We have called this new reactor class ‘spinning mesh disc reactors’ (SMDRs), which enables any type of mesh (i.e. not just cloths) with an unbound top surface on a spinning disc to be included within this new reactor classification.“ The researches are currently looking at biodiesel synthesis and pharmaceutical reactions to extend the applications.

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