Biocatalysis in Water or in Non-Conventional Media? Adding the CO 2 Production for the Debate

Sustainable Momentum SL, Av. Ansite 3, 4-6, 35011 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
Domínguez de María, Pablo;
Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering, Aarhus University, Gustav Wieds Vej 10, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark
Kara, Selin;
Chemical and Analytical Development, Novartis Pharma AG, 4056 Basel, Switzerland
Gallou, Fabrice

Biocatalysis can be applied in aqueous media and in different non-aqueous solutions (non-conventional media). Water is a safe solvent, yet many synthesis-wise interesting substrates cannot be dissolved in aqueous solutions, and thus low concentrations are often applied. Conversely, non-conventional media may enable higher substrate loadings but at the cost of using (fossil-based) organic solvents. This paper determines the CO 2 production—expressed as kg CO 2 ·kg product −1 —of generic biotransformations in water and non-conventional media, assessing both the upstream and the downstream. The key to reaching a diminished environmental footprint is the type of wastewater treatment to be implemented. If the used chemicals enable a conventional (mild) wastewater treatment, the production of CO 2 is limited. If other (pre)treatments for the wastewater are needed to eliminate hazardous chemicals and solvents, higher environmental impacts can be expected (based on CO 2 production). Water media for biocatalysis are more sustainable during the upstream unit—the biocatalytic step—than non-conventional systems. However, processes with aqueous media often need to incorporate extractive solvents during the downstream processing. Both strategies result in comparable CO 2 production if extractive solvents are recycled at least 1–2 times. Under these conditions, a generic industrial biotransformation at 100 g L −1 loading would produce 15–25 kg CO 2 ·kg product −1 regardless of the applied media.


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