With the growing demand for greener biobased consumer products, every fraction of biomass should be efficiently used and appropriately modified to obtain the desired properties. Enzymes are known for their selectivity and environment-friendly reactions and so can play important roles in broadening the scope of biobased consumer products. There are many such products in whose processing enzymes could play a key role, yet suitable commercial enzymes are unavailable or perform poorly. Equally, there are a number of hitherto underexploited fractions of biomass which are prime candidates for enzyme-based functional improvements and enhanced sustainable valorization, yet the current commercial landscape is lacking in suitable candidate enzymes.
A clear example of the latter is Xylan. It is a highly-abundant lignocellulose polymer that, with appropriate modifications, has outstanding physical and chemical properties which make it suitable for incorporation in an array of consumer products, replacing lesssustainable product components and so allowing for greener market options for the consumer. Enzymes are the most sustainable and selective option Structure of different types of xylan and enzymes acting at different linkages for the modification of xylan, through the removal of the polymer’s side chains (debranching). This leads to a xylan polymer with unique functional properties (such as reduced water solubility and enhanced viscosity) and is suitable for direct incorporation in consumer products (e.g. everyday skin care) or for further modifications to confer the functional properties for more demanding applications (e.g. speciality skin care, personal care etc).
The key aim of EnXylaScope is to widen the scope and industrial potential of xylan debranching enzymes by developing enzymes with high catalytic activity and wide operation conditions, thereby demonstrating its ability to make xylan a platform polymer for applications in a variety of consumer products, with 6 products, covering 3 market sectors (personal care, cosmetics and nutraceuticals), formulated, tested, and optimised during the project.
To establish experimentally driven cross-functional process map and guidance platform to expand the use of xylan debranching enzymes and functionalising (grafting) enzymes for 6 greener consumer products covering 3 market sectors.
To accelerate discovery and functional characterisation of 4 novel high-performance xylan debranching enzymes (α- glucuronidase, α-arabinofuranosidase, acetyl xylan esterase, feruloyl esterase) by using multi-omics and advanced high-throughput screening (HTPS) methods.
To establish efficient production systems and techno-economically viable production strategies for the selected enzymes with at least one enzyme from each class of targeted enzymes.
To target enzymatic modification to introduce xylan in consumer products by using substrate and product specific enzyme cocktails developed using a combination of debranching and grafting enzymes.
To pilot process demonstration of 4 enzymes and application testing of 6 different enzymatically derived xylan-based consumer products.
To accomplish regulatory compliance and market acceptance of EnXylaScope consumer products.
To effectively communicate and disseminate procedures that will prepare the market and consumers for the exploitation potential offered by the EnXylaScope process and consumer products.
The new xylan-debranching enzymes discovered in the project, coupled with their enhanced production systems and optimised processes for their applications to 3 types of xylans (with varying compositions and structure) from hardwood, wheat straw and dried distiller grains, will be used to produce WIS-xylan, a hydrogel. This in itself is a saleable ingredient that can be used in the production of a range of biobased consumer products such as cosmetics, binder/prebiotic in nutraceuticals, with two such products being developed in the project. The scope of consumer products expands significantly once this WIS-xylan is functionalised and EnXylaScope will optimise the enzymatic-functionalisation, using commercially available grafting enzymes, for two additional types of modified xylan (cross-linked and hydrophobic) that will be application tested for 4 additional consumer products (2 from each functionally modified xylan). In fitting with the desire for simpler, cost-effective, sustainable processing, process will be optimised whereby both xylan debranching and WIS-xylan functionalisation are undertaken in a single one-pot process, through the optimisation of enzyme cocktails, and the results compared with a two-stage approach (xylan debranching followed by functionalisation).
The streamlined research program and strategically-designed experimental methodology of EnXylaScope, incorporating several key innovations to reduce the complexity of enzyme discovery, production, and application, will result in xylan being demonstrated as a unique polymer that can respond to the fast-growing greener consumer products industry.