Sparged but not stirred: Rapid, ADH-NADH oxidase catalyzed deracemization of alcohols in a bubble column

Shelby R. Anderson, Bettina R. Bommarius, John M. Woodley, Andreas S. Bommarius*

*Corresponding author for this work

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We investigate in detail both the deracemization reaction rate and maximum conversion of (R,S)-1-phenylethanol in a bubble column and the deactivation rates of both enzymes involved, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and NADH oxidase (nox2). Instead of the predicted ellipsoidal shape of the bubbles, we observe a spherical shape in all our experiments. Calculated values for the area-specific mass transfer coefficient kLa in sparged, but not stirred, solution ranged from 17 to 87 h−1. We find that minimizing the air–liquid interface over time results in the lowest rate of nox2 deactivation. The onset of nox2 dissociation beyond the initial 50 h correlates with a tenfold increase in the observed deactivation rate constant. The highest conversion (99%) for deracemizing 50 mM (R,S)-1-phenylethanol was reached in the shortest reaction time (6 h) if large air bubbles (diameter 2.6 mm) at slow flowrates (5 bubbles/s) were employed. A faster flowrate, which delivers more oxygen per unit time, increased the initial reaction rate but resulted in a slower rate at higher conversions and ultimately incomplete maximum conversion (94%). Reaction rates under sparging were 4–8 times faster than in quiescent solution. Lastly, stirring did not significantly aid conversion (41% vs 37% in quiescent solution after 12 h) but caused increased enzyme deactivation (44 h vs 136 h half-life quiescent solution).
Original languageEnglish
Article number127909
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Bubble column
  • Oxygen transfer
  • Enzyme deactivation
  • NADH oxidase
  • Deracemization


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