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Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 74, Issue 1–3, pp 107–118 | Cite as

Application of whole cell rhodococcal biocatalysts in acrylic polymer manufacture

  • Jonathan Hughes
  • Yvonne C. Armitage
  • Kenneth C. Symes
Article

Abstract

Rhodococci are ubiquitous in nature and their ability to metabolise a wide range of chemicals, many of which are toxic, has given rise to an increasing number of studies into their diverse use as biocatalysts. Indeed rhodococci have been shown to be especially good at degrading aromatic and aliphatic nitriles and amides and thus they are very useful for waste clean up where these toxic chemicals are present.

The use of biocatalysts in the chemical industry has in the main been for the manufacture of high-value fine chemicals, such as pharmaceutical intermediates, though investigations into the use of nitrile hydratase, amidase and nitrilase to convert acrylonitrile into the higher value products acrylamide and acrylic acid have been carried out for a number of years. Acrylamide and acrylic acid are manufactured by chemical processes in vast tonnages annually and they are used to produce polymers for applications such as superabsorbents, dispersants and flocculants. Rhodococci are chosen for use as biocatalysts on an industrial scale for the production of acrylamide and acrylic acid due to their ease of growth to high biomass yields, high specific enzyme activities obtainable, their EFB class 1 status and robustness of the whole cells within chemical reaction systems.

Several isolates belonging to the genus Rhodococcus have been shown in our studies to be among the best candidates for acrylic acid preparation from acrylonitrile due to their stability and tolerance to high concentrations of this reactive and disruptive substrate. A critical part of the selection procedure for the best candidates during the screening programme was high purity product with very low residual substrate concentrations, even in the presence of high product concentrations. Additionally the nitrile and amide substrate scavenging ability which enables rhodococci to survive very successfully in the environment leads to the formation of biocatalysts which are suitable for the removal of low concentrations of acrylonitrile and acrylamide in waste streams and for the removal of impurities in manufacturing processes.

amidase biocatalyst bioreactor nitrilase polyacrylamide Rhodococcus 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Hughes
    • 1
  • Yvonne C. Armitage
    • 1
  • Kenneth C. Symes
    • 1
  1. 1.Allied Colloids Ltd.Low Moor BradfordUK

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