Immobilization of Enzymes in Mesoporous Silica for the Conversion of CO2 to Methanol
Doktorsavhandling, 2019

Enzymes are powerful biomolecules able to catalyse chemical reactions under mild conditions and with high selectivity. However, their use in industrial processes is many times hindered due to their high costs and low stability. To overcome these problems the enzymes can be immobilized in an inert support material. The enzyme immobilization is also an interesting approach to increase enzyme activity, especially in the case of cascade reactions where more than one enzyme is involved.

One extremely relevant cascade reaction is the conversion of CO2 to methanol that can be performed by three enzymes: formate dehydrogenase (FateDH) that converts CO2 to formate; formaldehyde dehydrogenase (FaldDH) for the reduction of formate to formaldehyde; and alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) that reduces formaldehyde to methanol. This reaction can help to mitigate the environmental impact caused by the high emissions of CO2. However, the catalytic activity of the cascade reaction needs to be improved. In this work we investigate if an improvement can be achieved by the immobilization of the enzymes in a type of mesoporous silica particles (MPS), called siliceous mesostructured cellular foams (MCF), which physical and chemical properties can be specifically designed for the immobilization.

MCFs with different pores sizes containing the functional groups octyl (OC), mercaptopropyl (MP), chloromethyl (CM) or aminopropyl (AP) were synthesized. They were initially used to study the immobilization and reaction of each enzyme separately. However, the reaction performed by FateDH is thermodynamically unfavourable, thus it was necessary to add FaldDH in the system to drive the reaction towards the reduction pathway. The co-immobilization of these two enzymes in MCF-MP resulted in a specific activity of about 4 times higher than for the free enzymes in solution. Förster resonance energy transfer measurements suggested that the enzymes were in closer proximity inside this material which potentially contributed to the higher activity. For FaldDH, specifically, MCF with large pores were required for the enzyme to remain active upon immobilization and its activity was enhanced using MCF-MP. The catalytic activity of the last enzyme, ADH, was higher upon immobilization in MCF-OC. ADH showed to be sensitive to pressure, and high concentrations of formaldehyde were required to achieve high enzymatic activity. Combining the knowledge from those studies we co-immobilized the three enzymes in MCF-MP and obtained methanol yields about 4.5 times higher than with the free enzymes in solution.

One complementary study in this thesis was the comparison of two mesoporous silica materials, MCF and SBA-15, for the immobilization of ADH. From nitrogen sorption analysis we could observe that in MCF a larger fraction of the enzymes become immobilized inside the pores than on the outer surface in comparison to SBA-15, confirming that MCF is a good support material for this type of enzyme. 

The findings of this work contribute to a better understanding of enzyme immobilization in MPS and the improvement of the rate of the reactions involved in the conversion of CO2 to methanol.


mesoporous silica

nitrogen sorption analysis

CO2 reduction


PJ-salen, Fysikgården 2B
Opponent: Mika Lindén, Institute of Inorganic Chemistry II, Ulm University, Germany


Milene Zezzi Do Valle Gomes

Chalmers, Kemi och kemiteknik, Tillämpad kemi

The high amounts of CO2 produced due to human activity has led to climate changes and global warming. Thus, it is extremely necessary to find solutions to reduce CO2 emissions. One possibility is to use CO2 as feedstock to produce methanol, which is a product with high added value. However, CO2 is a very stable molecule and its conversion to methanol requires the use of catalysts that reduce the amount of energy necessary for the reaction.

In my PhD research, biological catalysts, called enzymes, were used to convert CO2 to methanol. For this reaction, three enzymes are necessary: formate-, formaldehyde- and alcohol dehydrogenase. However, the reaction yields are not satisfactory due to the low activity of the enzymes. It can be improved by the immobilization of the enzymes in solid materials. Immobilized enzymes can gain stability and get in closer proximity during the reaction, potentially leading to higher activity. In my work, I studied the immobilization of the three enzymes a in material called siliceous structured cellular foams (MCF). This material has high porosity and surface area. Therefore, large amounts of enzymes can become immobilized inside the pores of the material. Also, its surface can be easily functionalized improving the interactions between the support material and the enzymes. So, by tailoring the physical and chemical properties of MCF, I could improve the catalytic activity of the enzymes used to convert CO2 to methanol. The research presented here can be an important step for the development of a sustainable and efficient method for recycling CO2.




Biokatalys och enzymteknik



Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 4653



PJ-salen, Fysikgården 2B

Opponent: Mika Lindén, Institute of Inorganic Chemistry II, Ulm University, Germany

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