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Home » Biology Homework Help » Biotechnology » Enzyme Reactors
Enzyme Reactors
A vessel employed to carry out the desired conversion using an enzyme is called enzyme reactor. Several different types of reactors are available, the choice of a reactor type depending on the form of enzyme (free or immobilized) to be used, kinetics of reaction etc. and the scale of operation.

The different types of reactors used for enzyme-mediated conversions are as follows: (i) stirred tank reactor, (ii) membrane reactors, (iii) continuous flow reactors, e.g. (a) packed bed reactors, (b) continuous flow stirred tank reactors and (c) fluidized bed reactors.

The reactors may be operated either in a batch mode or in a continuous mode. Batch mode reactors offer the following advantages.

1. They are simple both in use and process development.

2. They provide a close control on the reactor environment.

3. They can be used where continuous processes cannot be used due to viscosity and other problems of the reaction mix.

4. They are useful for a smaller scale production of costly products.

However, batch reactors suffer from the following limitations:

1. Batch mode is costlier than continuous mode due to the operations required for employing, cleaning and sterilizing the reactors at the end of each batch run, and the lime lost in these operations.

2. There is batch to batch variation in the product quality.

3. They are more difficult to scale up.

Stirred tank reactors

These reactors are simple and consist of a tank containing a stirrer and, usually, fixed baffles to improve mixing. These reactors are used in batch mode, and free enzymes can be employed. Efficient arrangements are provided to maintain temperature, pH etc. of the reaction mix.

Membrane reactors

A membrane reactor uses a membrane, e.g. dialysis membrane, to contain the enzyme in a chamber into which the substrate moves and the product moves out. Generally, membrane reactors use a hollow fiber of 20 diameter with 50 thick membranes. Each reactor contains hundreds of such fibers into which the enzymes is retained; usually these reactors use soluble enzymes. The  substrate is kept in the main chamber of the reactor. These reactors can also be used in a continuous mode and the substrate flow rate is adjusted to achieve the desired level of reaction.

Continuous flow reactors

Continuous flow reactors are based on immobilized enzymes. They offer the following advantages: (i) greater productivity per unit amount of enzyme, (ii) can be used for substrates having low solubility, and (iii) uniform product quality (i.e. lack of batch to batch variation). These reactors may be of the following 3 types: (i) continuous flow stirred tank reactor, (ii) packed bed reactor and (iii) fluidized bed reactor.

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