Prof. Dr. Michel Eppink has been appointed Special Professor at the Department of Bioprocess Engineering from March 2014. He will be responsible for the biorefinery group, currently consisting of about ten coworkers. Eppink’s expert knowledge concentrates on mild separation technologies of complex biomolecules such as proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. Such technologies are specifically aimed at maintaining the molecule’s structure and functionality.
Eppink has a solid background in biotechnology and analytics. For about 10 years he worked at Organon, focusing on mild separation and characterization technologies of complex biomolecules. About 5 years ago he moved to Synthon Biopharmaceuticals BV, focusing in addition on structure/function characterization of complex biomolecules.
Eppink’s unique expertise fits perfectly within the biorefinery area. His knowledge of biomolecules, scale-up, analytical and separation methods will be applied within Bioprocess Engineering and AlgaePARC’s biorefinery research. Eppink: ‘My main research goal focuses on developing separation concepts specifically suitable for the bio-refinery of complex biomolecules in microalgae and other wet biomass streams.’
Different cell wall disruption techniques will be investigated for application to algae cells, including standard techniques, like high-pressure glass bead milling. However, more sophisticated technologies using electricity, high-pressure vapor or ultrasonic pulses to crack the algae cell wall will be applied and tested as well. The effects of these technologies on cellular structure, released biomolecules and cell wall structure will be closely monitored. Released biomolecules will subsequently be extracted/fractionated using traditional and novel mild techniques, ensuring to maintain their functionality. The biomolecules can subsequently be used in high-quality applications, but use in bulk products (e.g. fuel) needs to be established as well.
Eppink is convinced algae are important for the transformation into a more sustainable economy: ‘I think algae production and biorefinery of their valuable components will make a significant contribution to a greener economy that is less dependent on other countries for energy and high-quality raw materials.’