Opting for polyamines with specific structural traits as a strategy to boost performance of enzymatic membrane reactors

Andrei Popkov, Magdalena Malankowska, Markus Simon De Martini, Shantanu Singh, Ziran Su, Manuel Pinelo*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Enzymatic membrane reactor (EMR) is a type of continuous-flow bioreactor offering easy separation and reuse of biocatalyst while giving opportunities to improve its performance. However, simultaneous enhancement of activity and stability of enzyme while retaining high membrane permeability poses a challenge for a single reactor. Herein, we propose a new method to optimize EMR system − by employing cationic polyelectrolytes with selected molecular weight, backbone, and amino group type for modification of membrane surface; after we have evaluated the effect of polyamine chemistry and membrane properties on each aspect of EMR performance. Polydopamine (PDA)-assisted co-deposition of polyamines (polyethyleneimine (PEI), PEI-graft-poly(ethylene glycol) (PEI-g-PEG), poly(allylamine hydrochloride) (PAH), and poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride) (PDADMAC)) was used as the modification method; the membranes were characterized by water permeability, water contact angle (WCA), zeta potential (ZP), FTIR spectra, and SEM/EDX; and EMRs were assessed by biocatalytic activity at various pH, flux, immobilization yield and efficiency (activity recovery), enzyme leakage, pH/storage and thermal stability, and reusability. In this work, EMRs with immobilized alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) showed activities up to 8.9 mU/cm2, retained up to 86 % of initial activity in three conversion cycles without any reduction in flux, and allowed to increase non-optimal pH activity (pH 10) by up to 81 % and improve storage stability by up to 53 % compared to the free enzyme. We discovered statistically significant (p < 0.01) relationships between: (1) polyamine backbone type (linear vs branched) and membrane permeability; (2) membrane isoelectric point and immobilization yield; and (3) membrane WCA and immobilization efficiency. To our knowledge, this is the first systematic study of the effect of polyelectrolyte chemistry on performance of immobilized enzyme − which showed the method’s strong potential for customizing properties and maximizing the productivity of EMRs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number153115
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Biocatalysis
  • Enzyme immobilization
  • Membrane modification
  • Membrane reactor
  • Polydopamine
  • Polyelectrolyte


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