During the initial boom in modem biotechnology, the focus was, quite naturally, on the opportunities presented for novel products and processes. Separations for catalyst isolation, product recovery and effluent treatment were regarded as a minor consideration while this potential was being explored. Now that biotechnology is maturing as an industrial and commercial proposition, the requirements for bioseparations processes are of increasing importance. Although separation science was considered mature when biotechnology was in its infancy, there are now new issues to be investigated and new challenges to be met.

Advances in biotechnology offer great potential to the food industry for the development of novel products and processes. In many cases this will involve the purification on a commercial basis of biological compounds such as enzymes from biomass and bioreactor effluents. Several factors, although individually not exclusive to food industry separations, combine to make this a unique challenge:

♦ requirement for low cost final product

♦ high volume operation

♦ complex, poorly defined starting materials

♦ variation of starting material characteristics

♦ rigorous legislation to ensure safety of products and processes

♦ requirement for R&D specific to the needs of this sector.

Further developments in process engineering and separation technology will be necessary to meet this challenge. Recent advances which may contribute to this include:

♦ genetic manipulation of organisms for the overproduction and secretion of products and to facilitate purification.

♦ development of high-resolution separation processes which are capable of operation using large volumes of crude materials.

♦ increased accessibility of affinity separations through the synthesis of low-cost, stable ligands and methods of large-scale application.

♦ lower process costs by continuous operations and process integration.

♦ improved understanding of the nature of biological materials and the operation of separation processes.

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