ORC-30306 Applied Biocatalysis


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work8
Course coordinator(s)dr. MCR Franssen
Lecturer(s)dr. MCR Franssen
prof. dr. WJH van Berkel
prof. dr. ir. RH Wijffels
ing. EJ van den End
Examiner(s)dr. MCR Franssen
prof. dr. WJH van Berkel
prof. dr. ir. RH Wijffels

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

BIC-20806 Enzymology; ORC-20306 Bio-organic Chemistry and BPE-21306 Bioreactor Design.

Continuation courses:

MSc thesis ORC, BIC, BPE and/or MIB.


The purpose of this course is to get insight in the possibilities and the problems concerning the application of biocatalysts for the preparation of chemicals. The biocatalyst (enzyme or microbial cell) is usually the most expensive part in the process, so it is often immobilised to enable its reuse. The course therefore starts with lectures on the chemistry of immobilisation and on the effects that immobilisation has on enzyme kinetics and transport phenomena. The latter will be illustrated by practical experiments at BPE. The course then continues with 3 PGO cases, in which students in small groups study three different problems: 1) pros and cons of two biocatalytic (or chemical) routes to make a particular fine chemical; 2) application and optimisation of enzymes to make biobased chemicals or biofuels; 3) design of a production plant that uses immobilised biocatalysts. Downstream processing and economical aspects should be addressed in all three cases.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- explain pros and cons of different immobilisation methods for enzymes and cells;
- understand the effects of immobilisation and environmental effects (pH, salts, solvents) on the kinetics and selectivity of enzymes;
- analyse transport phenomena inside immobilised biocatalysts;
- calculate effectiveness factors and mass transfer coefficients;
- analyse literature reports on the biocatalytic synthesis of fine chemicals, and make decisions on the pros and cons of these routes;
- discuss cost effectiveness issues in the application of particular biocatalytic reactions in industry, and give solutions to these problems;
- understand the factors that are responsible for enzyme inactivation or unfolding, and advise on methods to avoid inactivation;
- analyse literature reports on the use of enzymes for the biotechnological production of chemicals or biofuels from biopolymers like lignin, cellulose or chitin;
- design a biocatalytic plant for a particular reaction and 'construct' the plant using equipment that can be 'bought' on internet.


- the student first has to attend lectures and solve problems about transport phenomena in immobilised biocatalysts;
- subsequently, practical experiments with immobilised biocatalysts have to be executed and interpreted, resulting in a written report;
- finally the student has to gather information in a problem-oriented way, under the supervision of a tutor;
- discussion with other students and the tutor is essential.


- the final mark is based on the written report of the practical;
- the written reports and the oral presentations of the PGO cases, and a written exam.
The marks for the individual parts of this course will remain valid for 2 academic years.
During the exam, all course material may be used ('open book exam').


Tramper and van 't Riet: Basic Reactor design.
Lecture notes: Applied Biocatalysis.
Available at the WUR-shop.

Restricted Optional for: MBTBiotechnologyMScF: Marine Biotechnology1AF
MBTBiotechnologyMScA: Cellular/Molecular Biotechnology1AF
MBTBiotechnologyMScD: Process Technology1AF
MBTBiotechnologyMScE: Environmental and Biobased Biotechnology1AF
MFTFood TechnologyMScA: Food Biotechnology and Biorefining1AF