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Chemical Engineering

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Immobilizing enzymes for biosensors

| By Paul Grad

A new technique for making less-expensive, more-efficient biological enzyme hybrids could have widespread applications, including in water recycling, drug manufacturing and molecular biology. The technique, developed by a team from Australia and the U.S., involves using a vortex fluidic device (VFD) to immobilize an enzyme hybrid, making it possible to reuse the enzyme under continuous flow.

The team, which includes professor Colin Raston from Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia; and professor Gregory Weiss from the University of California at Irvine (, reported details of a low-cost VFD that has a rapidly rotating tube open at one end. At high rotational speed, intense shear is generated at the open end in the resulting thin films. The device can also operate under a continuous-flow mode with jet feeds delivering liquid into the rotating tube, where additional shear is generated.

Harnessing the high shear forces and micro mixing in a VFD resulted in a dramatically accelerated fabrication of hybrid protein-Cu3(PO4)2 “nanoflowers.” The team was able to generate and immobilize the nanoflowers into silica hydrogel. This greatly simplified the fabrication process, and allowed reusing the enzyme. It also increased the enzyme’s catalytic rates by 16 times. This technique overcomes some of the drawbacks of using enzymes in biosensors, such as cost and limited life of the enzymes — most enzymes become inactive during the assay process and cannot be reused.

The study was published in the November 5, 2020 issue of the ACS journal, Applied Materials & Interfaces.