Argonne researchers develop highly selective adsorbent material to boost bioproduction efficiencies

November 13, 2019 |

In Illinois, researchers from two divisions at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory who have joined forces to develop a highly selective adsorbent material called EZ Select to tackle inefficiencies in bioproduct extraction. Combining the laboratory’s expertise in biosciences with its manufacturing know-how, the technology demonstrates the power of partnership.

In bioproduct manufacturing, different microorganisms are selected to create specific products, each grown using a different solution of growth media consisting of nutrients and salts. The “soup” that this produces includes not only the product, but byproducts of processing, like particulates and emulsions that make the product harder to extract.

Because the complexity of the growth media and the soup changes from bioproduct to bioproduct, the team needed the expertise of both bioscientists and applications experts to create a material that could be altered or “tuned” to work with different chemistries.

That material is a xerogel, a highly porous nanostructured material whose pore sizes can be modified using micelles, or lipids, that create the active scrubbing power in detergents. The ability to fine-tune EZ Select even further using additives provides nearly complete control of porosity.

Another benefit of using EZ Select in biomanufacturing is its neutral effect on the organisms charged with creating the final product. In some bioproduction schemes, over-concentration of the bioproduct can slow or stop the fermentation process, resulting in lower yields.

Looking like a giant roll of soggy paper towels, EZ Select can adsorb up to eight times its mass and be reused tens of times. It also can be sized to meet the adsorption needs of specific product quantities. Just one gel the size of a half-gallon milk carton can be reused multiple times in a hundred-liter process.

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Category: Research

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