Biocatalysis

By using enzymes, we can cause unique reactions to occur with high selectivity in mild conditions and with low environmental impact. The exceptional catalytic properties of enzymes make it possible to improve existing processes and to develop new technologies, including for the biobased economy.

Biocatalysis is a very attractive tool for the biobased economy as its application is ideal for the conversion of unstable or complex molecules (which are common in natural products such as biomass). Biocatalysis also allows the production of chiral molecules, speciality chemicals and commodity chemicals.

Building blocks for chemicals and biopolymers

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has a distinct biocatalysis expertise field, within which we focus on integrating enzyme technology with synthetic and separation technologies for process and product development. We have notable experience with enzymatic processes in both aqueous and non-aqueous media such as organic solvents, two-phase fluid systems and supercritical fluids. We work on simple reactions using one enzyme as well as on multistep processes involving the use of more enzymes or  enzymes and chemical catalysts. We have developed efficinet biocatalytic processes for the synthesis of a variety of compounds, like peptide derivatives, carbohydrate-based surface-active derivatives, biobased monomers and biobased polyesters & polyamides. Enzymes are specifically used in the depolymerisation of polymers from biomass such as proteins, polysaccharides and lignin. The building blocks obtained can be used for making chemicals and biopolymers for bioplastics, among other things.

Improving properties

In addition to biocatalytic processes for the degradation or synthesis of biopolymers we also work on the functionalisation of these biopolymers. This improves the stability, the physico-chemical properties and the biofunctionality of the biopolymers.

Research opportunities for biocatalysis

Customers can contact us for both the development of new technologies and the optimisation of existing processes for the production of various chemicals and materials. We can synthesise, hydrolyse and modify proteins and carbohydrates. It is also possible to produce, modify and immobilise enzymes in order to increase their process stability and be able to reuse them. Upon request, we carry out process optimisation to determine the right conditions for maximum product yield and high selectivity of chemoenzymatic or enzymatic reactions. By integrating biocatalysis with conventional chemical synthesis, separation technologies and materials research, we can investigate the possibilities to produce fine chemicals, bulk chemicals and fuels from renewable resources such as biomass. As well as carrying out research, we also advise clients on a consultancy basis on the implementation of new or improved enzymatic processes (from lab scale to industrial production).