Enzyme Reactions and Bio-Separations

Nowadays people are more aware of the need for a better utilisation of agricultural raw materials, energy and water, combined with a reduction of the use of chemical processes. Enzymes are the basis for green production in which unwanted chemicals may be limited or even excluded. Enzyme technology is seen as one of the keys towards a more sustainable food production. Many examples are known that showed that chemical reagents can be replaced by enzymes in industrial food processes, resulting in more healthy food and less polluting processes. Also separation processes are very important. Waste streams should be better utilized and valuable components could be obtained from these waste streams.

Our research is focussed on enzyme technology, separation processes and a combination of these two. Enzymatic modification of biopolymers such as starch, are currently performed in diluted systems. However, a consequence of the use of a diluted system is the high energy and water consumption of the processes involved. Increasing the biopolymer concentration in existing equipment is usually not possible. The increased viscosity imposes several new challenges on the process with respect to mixing, process control and purification.

Separation technology is important for a better utilisation of agricultural raw materials. Standard technology for fractionation or enrichment in food and biotechnological systems is using a packed bed, however, the scale of packed bed systems is limited and process streams in the food industry are typical large in volume. Furthermore, for conventional separation processes, the components of interest are usually present in reasonable high concentrations, while it might also be interested to purify minor components that are only present in small amounts. It is also possible that the components of interest resemble each other which make separation more difficult. In order to efficiently remove the component, robust and highly selective separation process should be developed. 

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