New Enzymatically Produced Interpenetrating Starch-Cellulose Gels

Lead Research Organisation: UNIVERSITY OF EXETER
Department Name: Engineering Computer Science and Maths


The project aims to translate existing academic research to enable the production of interpenetrating network (IPN) gels of starch and nanocellulose fibres using side-by-side enzymatic and/or bacterial synthesis routes. These IPN gels will be produced with the end aim of use in the food and home care industries. The project will develop tandem enzymatic processes for the production of small fragments of starch, xyloglucan and cellulose, assembly of components into gels in the presence of water, and characterisation of the mechanical and physical properties of the gels. We will valorise waste, making new products, reducing costs and CO2 emissions for the companies we will support through this technology. Industrial input will guide development of the gels, targetting key industrial applications. No research has yet developed gels based on industrial biotechnology approaches to produce small molecules of starch combining them with cellulose fibrils.

Planned Impact

As described in proposal submitted to IUK


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Koev TT (2020) Structural heterogeneities in starch hydrogels. in Carbohydrate polymers

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Nigmatullin R (2018) Mechanically Robust Gels Formed from Hydrophobized Cellulose Nanocrystals. in ACS applied materials & interfaces

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De Andrade P (2021) Chemoenzymatic Synthesis of Fluorinated Cellodextrins Identifies a New Allomorph for Cellulose-Like Materials*. in Chemistry (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany)

Description We have so-far shown that you can make cellulosic gels by enzymatic methods, and using cellulose nanofibrils and nanocrystals. The work is very preliminary and we are exploring the use of enzymes to reverse catalyse materials. The grant identified a number of potential applications and some of these are being pursued through other funding routes.
Exploitation Route We have identified some potential products that could be commercially exploited.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description Understanding hydrophobic interactions in cellulose nanofibres
Amount £24,040 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/T005831/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2019 
End 08/2024
Description MD starch 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Experimental evaluation of glycan structure and enzyme sensitivityt
Collaborator Contribution Microsecond molecular dynamics simulation to assess glycan-glycan interactions
Impact Too early
Start Year 2017
Description Sugar nucleotides 
Organisation Keele University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Enzymatic synthsesis
Collaborator Contribution Chemical synthesis - methods development and target synthesis.
Impact New integrated chemical and enzymatic methods for sugar nucleotide synthesis
Start Year 2020