Modelling and optimization of a bioremediation system utilizing silica gel encapsulated whole-cell biocatalyst

Baris R. Mutlu, Sujin Yeom, Lawrence P. Wackett, Alptekin Aksan

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18 Scopus citations


In this study, a 3-step design and optimization method is presented for a bioremediation system utilizing silica gel encapsulated whole-cell biocatalyst. Characterization experiments were conducted to determine the parameters of a steady state reaction/diffusion model for encapsulated AtzA biocatalyst that was subsequently verified experimentally. Dimensionless numbers governing the reaction rate, the Thiele modulus (Φ) and effectiveness factor (η), were evaluated based on the design parameters of the material, ρ (cell loading density) and Lc (characteristic length). Mechanical properties of the gel were determined as a function of ρ. Optimal values for ρ and Lc were determined for a case study, based on biocatalytic performance, mechanical properties and cost. It was found that free biocatalyst reaction kinetics are first order with kfree'=7.38×10-2s-1/(gcells/mL) and diffusivity of atrazine in the gel increases with ρ, from 3.51×10-4mm2/s up to 6.93×10-4mm2/s. Modeling results showed that ~20% of activity was lost during encapsulation. Diffusion limitations became significant (Φ>1) when Lc exceeded 0.1-0.3mm. The optimal catalyst radius and cell loading density were determined to be Lc=0.2mm and ρ=0.11gcells/mL gel, for an atrazine bioremediation setup with a desired effluent <3ppb.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)574-580
Number of pages7
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the support of an NSF-IIP/PFI Grant (#1237754), an NSF-CAREER award (#0644784), a research grant from Syngenta Crop Protection and MnDrive fellowship to BRM from the BioTechnology Institute in University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier B.V.


  • Atrazine
  • AtzA
  • Bioremediation
  • Encapsulation
  • Silica gel
  • Whole-cell biocatalyst


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