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Biocatalysts for biodiesel production

By Paul Grad |

Researchers from the Department of Environmental and Applied Chemical Engineering, Gangneung-Wonju National University (Gangneung, South Korea; www.gwnu.ac.kr) are developing a two-step enzymatic route to biodiesel fuel that promises to reduce production costs. The process employs a lipase-producing bacterium and, sequentially, a commercial enzyme. The combination has the double advantage of reducing the use of commercial enzyme, thus lowering costs, and of reducing enzyme deactivation by methanol — a problem that has prohibited the commercialization of enzymatic biodiesel fuel production. The university group, led by Prof Sung Ho Yeom, uses a lipase-producing bacterium, Serratia marcescens, isolated from grease-contaminated soil and chemically mutated to increase its lipase production. The bacteria with highest lipase activity were mutated again to further enhance their lipase activity. These twice mutated bacteria exhibited 2.5-times higher intracellular lipase activity than the wild type. The enzyme combination was used for transesterification of soybean oil using methanol as an acyl donor. Although the biocatalyst was less inhibited by methanol than the commercial enzyme, it exhibits much-lower biodiesel-conversion activity…
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