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Title: Oil and lipids biocatalysis: Past, present and future prospects

item Hou, Ching

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/14/2008
Publication Date: 8/14/2008
Citation: Hou, C.T. 2008. Oil and lipids biocatalysis: Past, present and future prospects [abstract]. Society for Industrial Microbiology. S135. p. 92.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Biocatalysts (enzymes) for both petroleum oil and vegetable oils are quite similar. In the 1960s, scientists were trying to convert the excess petroleum oil into single cell protein. After 1970, scientists focused on converting petroleum products to value-added products such as oxygenated products like alcohols, ketones, epoxids and acids. The biocatalysts involved in these reactions are metal containing oxygenases. Therefore, studies on enzyme metal active sites such as active center configuration, activation mechanism, and enzyme mimicking became the focus of biocatalysis research. After the 1980s, the interest shifted to environmental problems; especially on clean up of petroleum oil spills, etc. Genetic engineering techniques were introduced in the late 1980s to improve biocatalysts. On vegetable oils, the U.S. has a large amount of surplus soybean oil annually. Using vegetable oils or their component fatty acids as starting material provides a new opportunity in bioindustry. From the 1980s, scientists are trying to find new uses for these surplus vegetable oils by converting them to value-added products such as oxygenated fatty acids and bioactive fatty acids. The biocatalysts working on vegetable oils are also oxygenases, quite similar to those working on petroleum products. One additional biocatalyst is lipase in vegetable oil biocatalysis. Biocatalysts inserted one, two, or more oxygen atom(s) into vegetable oils or their constituent fatty acids. These oxygenated fatty acids can be used as starting materials for specialty chemicals, and biomedical products. Genetic engineering techniques were also introduced into vegetable oils biocatalysis. Due to the recent energy crisis, bioenergy such as ethanol and biodiesel have become the focus of biocatalysis research. Now finding new uses for bioglycerin, a co-product of biodiesel production, has become an important bioenergy research area.