Bioprocessing and enzyme technology

Valuable biological products like proteins, antioxidants and antibiotics are obtained from microorganisms, cells, and plants. Bioprocess technology (BPT) comprises the practical means, both in the lab and in industry, by which we produce and isolate these valuable biomolecules. With enzyme technology, we can develop products and ‘green’ processes based on biological raw materials. Our research supports the new bioeconomy as we develop solutions for utilizing all values in the biomass. With less going to waste, we add value to rest raw materials and bring crucial nutrients back into the loop.

Relevant courses

2BT201 Bioprocess Technology (BSc, autumn) and 2BIO035 Bioprocess Technology (MSc, spring).

Areas of research

  • Isolation methods for proteins and small molecules (adsorption, filtration, solvent extraction)
  • Fermentation processes, anaerobic digestion (biogas)
  • Enzymes in biomass conversion (cellulases)
  • Bioprospecting into green biomass and rest raw materials

In bioprocess technology, we use various strategies to grow cells by fermentation to have them producing active proteins and valuable biochemicals. Physical or chemical treatment are applied to extract and isolate the high-value biomolecules. When handled gently molecules keep their structure and functions intact.

Separation technologies researched involve adsorption chromatography (packed and expanded bed adsorption) and tangential flow filtration (TFF). The high selectivity and salt tolerance of mixed mode adsorption resins simplify the capture of protein from by-product effluents.

Solvent extraction is a powerful and well-proven method to recover small molecules from solid material. We employ extraction with various ‘green’ material to recover molecules that act as natural antioxidants or antimicrobials. Bioprospecting is a research method similar to ‘digging for gold’. Fine-tuned extraction techniques enables us to dig for novel bioactive molecules in plants and biomass. 

Enzyme technology includes research on lignocellulose degradation, aiming at releasing polysaccharides and sugars by enzymatic hydrolysis with cellulase and hemicellulase. Enzymes from ruminant animals foraging on cellulosic feed are specifically of interest as novel sources. Cellulases are tested for boosting biogas production in anaerobic digesters with high fiber content.

In all of the fields researched in our lab, finding the optimum conditions for fermentation, enzyme processing, chromatography, filtration, and extraction, significantly improves the process outcome. Therefore, we do structured multi-variable experiments (Design of Experiments - DoE) in small-scale setups, for a systematic screening and optimization of the critical variables of a unit operation.

Some project examples