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Continuous phase separation of stable emulsions from biphasic whole?cell biocatalysis by catastrophic phase inversion

Graphical Abstract and Lay SummaryGraphical abstract. Phase separation of highly stable Pickering?type emulsions using the tool of catastrophic phase inversion (CPI). A simple mixer?settler set?up enable a continuous phase separation process (ACPI) without requiring other additives than disperse emulsion phase. A fully automated lab?scale prototype was designed and constructed within this work, ensuring a stable phase inversion process (inverted emulsion state in the mixer) and achieving a separation efficiency of over 96% of the initial emulsion. AbstractThe main bottleneck for the industrial implementation of highly promising multi?phase whole?cell biocatalytic processes is the formation of stable Pickering?type emulsions, hindering efficient downstream processing. Especially for the crucial step of phase separation, state?of?the?art processes require time?consuming and costly process steps (excessive centrifugation/use of de?emulsifiers). In contrast, using the phenomenon of catastrophic phase inversion (CPI), efficient phase separation can be achieved by addition of an excess dispersed phase within minutes. To show applicability of CPI as an innovative process step, a fully automated lab?scale prototype was designed and constructed within this work. A simple mixer?settler set?up enabled a continuous phase separation using CPI termed applied catastrophic phase inversion (ACPI). Test runs were conducted using emulsions from biphasic whole?cell biocatalysis (Escherichia coli JM101 and Pseudomonas putida KT2440 cells). Solvents used included n?heptane, ethyl oleate or 1?octanol as organic phase. These investigations revealed ideal process settings for a stable ACPI process (e.g., flow/stirring rates and volumetric phase ratios between organic and water phase). The knowledge of the CPI point is most crucial, as only the inverted state of emulsion is successfully destabilized.

Publication date: 05/04/2023



This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.