Multiphase biotransformations in microstructured reactors: Opportunities for biocatalytic process intensification and smart flow processing

Juan M. Bolivar, Bernd Nidetzky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Enzymes are gaining increased importance as highly selective catalysts for green chemical synthesis. Multiphase microreaction systems are emerging tools for the development of enzyme-catalysed transformations involving two or more partly immiscible fluids in continuous flow. Mass transfer intensification due to miniaturisation of the flow dimensions and the associated enlargement of the interfacial area presents a powerful approach of effective reaction rate enhancement and thus reactor productivity increase for smart flow bioprocessing. Use of microstructured flow reactors for the study of multiphase (gas-liquid, liquid-liquid) biocatalytic conversions is reviewed. Multiphase flow characterisation based on dimensionless scaling parameters and flow-regime categorisation is presented with emphasis on the different flows applied to experimental studies of enzymatic reactions. Development of instrumented microsystems, flow instabilities, fast inactivation of biocatalysts and low conversion rates are problems often encountered with biotransformation under multiphase flow conditions. Key parameters controlling reaction performance are discussed along with some guidelines for design of scalable multiphase biocatalytic microreactors. Opportunities for biocatalytic process intensification are revealed in examples from fine chemical and materials synthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-559
Number of pages19
JournalGreen Processing and Synthesis
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • Biocatalysis
  • Flow synthesis
  • Microchannel
  • Multi-phase flow
  • Process intensification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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