Acta Physico-Chimica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 36 ›› Issue (10): 1910006.doi: 10.3866/PKU.WHXB201910006

Special Issue: Frontiers in Colloid and Interface Chemistry

• Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Solvent-Induced Inversion of Pickering Emulsions for In Situ Recycling of Enzyme Biocatalysts

Houbing Zou1, Rammile Ettelaie2,*(), Shuai Yan1, Nan Xue1, Hengquan Yang1,*()   

  1. 1 School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Shanxi University, Taiyuan 030006, P. R. China
    2 Food Colloids Group, School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, United Kingdom
  • Received:2019-10-07 Published:2020-06-11
  • Contact: Rammile Ettelaie,Hengquan Yang;
  • Supported by:
    the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21703128);the National Natural Science Foundation of China(U1510105);the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21733009);the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21573136)


Separation and recycling of catalysts are crucial for realizing the objectives of sustainable and green chemistry but remain a great challenge, especially for enzyme biocatalysts. In this work, we report a new solvent-induced reversible inversion of Pickering emulsions stabilized by Janus mesosilica nanosheets (JMSNs), which is then utilized as a strategy for the in situ separation and recycling of enzymes. The interfacial active solid particle JMSNs is carefully characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), nitrogen sorption experiments, Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy, and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA).The JMSNs are demonstrated to show order-oriented mesochannels with a large specific surface area, and the hydrophobic octylgroup is selectively modified on one side of the nanosheets. Furthermore, the inversion is found to be a fast process that is strongly dependent on the interfacial activity of the solid emulsifier JMSNs. Such a phase inversion is also a general process that can be realized in various oil/water phasic systems, including ethyl acetate-water, octane-water, and cyclohexane-water systems. By carefully analyzing the capacity of JMSNs with different surface wettabilities for phase inversion, a triphase contact angle (θ) close to 90° and a critical oil-water ratio of 1 : 2 are identified as the key factors to achieve solvent-induced phase inversion via a catastrophic phase inversion mechanism. Importantly, this reversible phase inversion is suitable for the separation and recycling of enzyme biocatalysts that are sensitive to changes in the reaction medium. Specifically, during the reaction, the organic substrates are dissolved in the oil droplets and the water-soluble catalysts are dispersed in the water phase, while a majority of the product is released into the upper oil phase and the enzyme catalyst is confined inside the water droplets in the bottom layer after phase inversion. The perpendicular mesochannels of JMSNs provide a highly accessible reaction interface, and their excellent interfacial activity allows for more than 10 rounds of consecutive phase inversions by simply adjusting the ratio of oil to water in the system. Using the enzymatic hydrolysis kinetic resolution of racemic acetate as an example, our Pickering emulsion system shows not only a 3-fold enhanced activity but also excellent recyclability. Because no sensitive chemical reagents are used in this phase inversion process, the intrinsic activities of the catalysts can be preserved even after seven cycles. The current study provides an alternative strategy for the separation and recycling of enzymes, in addition to revealing a new innovative application for Janus-type nanoparticles.

Key words: Janus nanosheet, Emulsion inversion, Mesoporous silica, Catalyst recycling, Enzyme catalysis, Kinetic resolution reaction