Room-temperature ionic liquids as replacements for organic solvents in multiphase bioprocess operations

S.G. Cull, John Holbrey, V. Vargas-Mora, Kenneth Seddon, G.J. Lye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

536 Citations (Scopus)


Organic solvents are widely used in a range of multiphase bioprocess operations including the liquid-liquid extraction of antibiotics and two-phase biotransformation reactions. There are, however, considerable problems associated with the safe handling of these solvents which relate to their toxic and flammable nature. In this work we have shown for the first time that room-temperature ionic liquids, such as 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium hexafluorophosphate, [bmim][PF6], can be successfully used in place of conventional solvents for the liquid-liquid extraction of erythromycin-A and for the Rhodococcus R312 catalyzed biotransformation of 1,3-dicyanobenzene (1,3-DCB) in a liquid-liquid, two-phase system. Extraction of erythromycin with either butyl acetate or [bmim][PF6] showed that values of the equilibrium partition coefficient, K, up to 20-25 could be obtained for both extractants. The variation of K with the extraction pH was also similar in the pH range 5-9 though differed significantly at higher pH values. Biotransformation of 1,3-DCB in both water-toluene and water-[bmim][PF6] systems showed similar profiles for the conversion of 1,3-DCB initially to 3-cyanobenzamide and then 3-cyanobenzoic acid. The initial rate of 3-cyanobenzamide production in the water-[bmim][PF6] system was somewhat lower, however, due to the reduced rate of 1,3-DCB mass transfer from the more viscous [bmim] [PF,] phase. it was also shown that the specific activity of the biocatalyst in the water-[bmim][PF6] system was almost an order of magnitude greater than in the water-toluene system which suggests that the rate of 3-cyanobenzamide production was limited by substrate mass transfer rather than the activity of the biocatalyst. (C) 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-233
Number of pages7
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Microbiology


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