Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Microreactors: Small scale chemistry could lead to big improvements for biodegradable polymers

Date:
April 4, 2011
Source:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Summary:
Using a small block of aluminum with a tiny groove carved in it, scientists are developing an improved "green chemistry" method for making biodegradable polymers. A prime example of the value of microfluidics, a technology more commonly associated with inkjet printers and medical diagnostics, to process modeling and development for industrial chemistry.

Typical NIST microreactor plate for studying enzyme catalyzed polymerization. The aluminum plate, topped with a transparent film, is approximately 40 millimeters by 90 mm. The channel, filled with plastic beads carrying the enzyme catalyst, is 2 mm wide and 1 deep.
Credit: Kundu, NIST

Using a small block of aluminum with a tiny groove carved in it, a team of researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University is developing an improved "green chemistry" method for making biodegradable polymers. Their recently published work is a prime example of the value of microfluidics, a technology more commonly associated with inkjet printers and medical diagnostics, to process modeling and development for industrial chemistry.

Related Articles


"We basically developed a microreactor that lets us monitor continuous polymerization using enzymes," explains NIST materials scientist Kathryn Beers. "These enzymes are an alternate green technology for making these types of polymers -- we looked at a polyester -- but the processes aren't really industrially competitive yet," she says. Data from the microreactor, a sort of zig-zag channel about a millimeter deep crammed with hundreds of tiny beads, shows how the process could be made much more efficient. The team believes it to be the first example of the observation of polymerization with a solid-supported enzyme in a microreactor.

The group studied the synthesis of PCL (polycaprolactone), a biodegradable polyester used in applications ranging from medical devices to disposable tableware. PCL, Beers explains, most commonly is synthesized using an organic tin-based catalyst to stitch the base chemical rings together into the long polymer chains. The catalyst is highly toxic, however, and has to be disposed of.

Modern biochemistry has found a more environmentally friendly substitute in an enzyme produced by the yeast strain Candida antartica, Beers says, but standard batch processes -- in which the raw material is dumped into a vat, along with tiny beads that carry the enzyme, and stirred -- is too inefficient to be commercially competitive. It also has problems with enzyme residue contaminating and degrading the product.

By contrast, Beers explains, the microreactor is a continuous flow process. The feedstock chemical flows through the narrow channel, around the enzyme-coated beads, and, polymerized, out the other end. The arrangement allows precise control of temperature and reaction time, so that detailed data on the chemical kinetics of the process can be recorded to develop an accurate model to scale the process.

"The small-scale flow reactor allows us to monitor polymerization and look at the performance recyclability and recovery of these enzymes," Beers says. "With this process engineering approach, we've shown that continuous flow really benefits these reactors. Not only does it dramatically accelerate the rate of reaction, but it improves your ability to recover the enzyme and reduce contamination of the product." A forthcoming follow-up paper, she says, will present a full kinetic model of the reaction that could serve as the basis for designing an industrial scale process.

While this study focused on a specific type of enzyme-assisted polymer reactions, the authors observe, "it is evident that similar microreactor-based platforms can readily be extended to other systems; for example, high-throughput screening of new enzymes and to processes where continuous flow mode is preferred."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Santanu Kundu, Atul S. Bhangale, William E. Wallace, Kathleen M. Flynn, Charles M. Guttman, Richard A. Gross, Kathryn L. Beers. Continuous Flow Enzyme-Catalyzed Polymerization in a Microreactor. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2011; 110325123921095 DOI: 10.1021/ja111346c

Cite This Page:

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Microreactors: Small scale chemistry could lead to big improvements for biodegradable polymers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110331151353.htm>.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2011, April 4). Microreactors: Small scale chemistry could lead to big improvements for biodegradable polymers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110331151353.htm
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Microreactors: Small scale chemistry could lead to big improvements for biodegradable polymers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110331151353.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

3D Printed Instruments Make Sweet Music in Sweden

3D Printed Instruments Make Sweet Music in Sweden

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Students from Lund University's Malmo Academy of Music are believed to be the world's first band to all use 3D printed instruments. The guitar, bass guitar, keyboard and drums were built by Olaf Diegel, professor of product development, who says 3D printing allows musicians to design an instrument to their exact specifications. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) Inspired by the way a chameleon changes its colour to disguise itself; scientists in Poland want to replace traditional camouflage paint with thousands of electrochromic plates that will continuously change colour to blend with its surroundings. The first PL-01 concept tank prototype will be tested within a few years, with scientists predicting that a similar technology could even be woven into the fabric of a soldiers' clothing making them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) Strong jet demand has pushed Boeing to raise its profit forecast for the third time, but analysts were disappointed by its small cash flow. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) As more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices are reaching consumers, developers are busy connecting them together as part of the Internet of Things. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins