Two-phase enzymatic reaction using Process Intensification technologies
Developing continuous enzymatic process, especially when a two-phase medium is required, remains nowadays a great challenge. So, there is a need to provide a technical solution for generating highly controlled interfacial area. In this study, three types of reactors, conventionally used for chemical process intensification, were tested for continuous lipase-catalysed esterification in two-phase medium. On the single criterion of mass transfer performance that is considered here, the Nitech oscillating reactor proved to be the more efficient to transform the input mechanical power into mass transfer while proposing easily adjustable residence time. Nevertheless Corning and Chart flow reactors were shown to be very suitable candidates even if mass transfer performances are dependant on the flow-rate and therefore are not uncoupled from the residence time. This results in a less convenient choice of operating conditions. Also, it has been shown here that the model reaction could also be a simple way to characterize mass transfer performance of these technologies.
Operation of enzymatic reactions in two-phase medium, i.e. oil-water dispersions, is very common when hydrophobic reactants are concerned, as for instance in the case of hydrolysis of lipids (1-2). Moreover, enzymatic reactions,, such as esterification, can be effective in two-phase media using free enzymes (3). Indeed, even in a two-phase system with a water activity close to unity, esterification can be effective due to a shift of the thermodynamic equilibrium by maintaining a low ester activity. After preliminary studies, when industrial development is envisaged, continuous operation must be considered in order to increase productivity and economic viability. But, at present time, it is not possible to propose a realistic continuous liquid-liqu