Sugar fatty acid esters (SFAEs) are nonionic surfactants widely used in food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries. They are usually synthesized from the esterification of sugars and fatty acids in the presence of chemical catalysts. Nonetheless, this approach requires high energy consume and presents low selectivity, turning the products separation/purification steps costly. As an alternative, the enzymatic synthesis of SFAEs from renewable raw materials has been studied. In this project, we propose the production and purification of mixed sugars from lignocellulosic biomass for use in the lipase-catalyzed synthesis of xylose fatty esters. Firstly, the esterification reaction was catalyzed by the commercial immobilized Candida antarctica lipase B (CALB) (Lipozyme 435, L435), with xylose and different fatty acids as substrates. We coated this lipase with polyethyleneimine (PEI) to assess its stability against different denaturing agents. Yet, for the efficient large-scale enzymatic synthesis of value-added co-bioproducts, challenges related to the use of renewable substrates, scaling-up of the process, and enzyme reuse, need further investigation. Thus, techniques developed in the Bioprocess Engineering Laboratory of the University of Toronto, Canada, will be crucial to evaluate those parameters in the synthesis of SFAEs, with the immobilized-stabilized derivatives as biocatalysts. Moreover, the PhD student will acquire a valuable "know-how" with the development of this project abroad, which could be applied later in Brazil to improve researches at UFSCar's biochemistry laboratories.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: