Doctoral Dissertations


Ran YeFollow

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Biosystems Engineering

Major Professor

Douglas G. Hayes

Committee Members

X. Philip Ye, Svetlana Zivanovic, Qixin Zhong


As nontoxic biobased surfactants derived from plant oils and cellulose or starch, saccharide-fatty acid esters are widely used in cosmetics, food, and pharmaceutical industries due to their biocompatibility, biodegradability as well as antimicrobial activity. Generally, saccharide-fatty acid esters are synthesized chemically under high pressure, temperature and the presence of alkaline or acid catalysts leading to low-quality products (chemo-degradation of double bonds and oxygenated moieties) and large amounts of byproducts. In contrast, biocatalytic synthesis enhances sustainability: near-ambient pressure and temperature, the absence of toxic, acids and bases catalysts, and improved selectivity of products. For lipase-catalyzed synthesis under nearly anhydrous conditions, the major hurdle to be overcome is the poor miscibility of the acyl donor and acceptor substrates, resulting in slow reaction rates. Although several approaches such as, the employments of organic solvents, complexation agents, and ionic liquids, have been reported in the literature, a robust solution is desperately needed. This study focused on employing immobilized lipases under completely solvent-free conditions to synthesize saccharide-fatty acid esters using the ester products to enhance miscibility. Experimentally, metastable saccharide particles with a diameter of 10-100 micron-sized suspensions of saccharide were formed in oleic acid-rich ester mixtures initially for synthesis of saccharide-fatty acid esters in packed bed bioreactor containing immobilized lipases. Water, a by-product that limits ester yield by promoting hydrolysis, was removed via free evaporation. In this dissertation, a bioreactor system was developed for the eco-friendly solvent-free, immobilized lipase-catalyzed synthesis of biobasaed surfactants utilizing suspensions as reaction medium with 88 wt% in 6 days; the performance of the bioreactor systems developed for Objective 1 was optimized through water concentration control and interval time with 91 wt% in 4.8 days; and to improve design of bioreactor system developed in Objective 1 by in-line filter and derive a mathematical model to describe the production of esters by the bioreactor systems developed. Finally, 84 wt% ester content was achieved in 8.4 days.

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