Cleaner chemical processes

Researchers at Manchester University are leading a £2.2m project to develop new green chemical processes.

The ’Amine synthesis through biocatalytic cascades’ (AMBIOCAS) programme brings together microbiologists, enzymologists, chemists, engineers and process development experts involved in research to develop the next generation of green manufacturing methods for the chemical industry.

Led by Prof Nick Turner, director of the Centre of Excellence for Biocatalysis, Biotransformations and Biocatalytic Manufacture (CoEBio3), the three-year project involves six partners from academia and industry.

Funded by the European Union FP7 programme, the project is expected to make a major contribution to efforts to replace traditional chemical manufacturing – reliant on highly toxic chemicals and solvents – with so-called ’white biotechnology’, which employs the power of natural biocatalysts and modern manufacturing techniques to deliver safer and less environmentally damaging industrial methods.

White biotechnology is a term used mainly in Europe for the application of nature’s catalysts, such as enzymes and cells, in biotechnology for industrial purposes. The use of the world ’white’ distinguishes it from other biotechnologies such as ’red’ (medicinal) and ’green’ (plant) biotechnology.

The term covers the manufacturing of chemicals, alternative energy and biomaterials and has the potential to enable economies to become less dependent on fossil fuels.

Aside from Manchester University, the project will involve researchers from the University of Graz in Austria, Denmark Technical University, Evonik Degussa in Germany, and the University of Groningen and CLEA Technologies, both in the Netherlands.