Background

Colorants are ubiquitous in everyday products, ranging from clothes to cars to plastics. The current production methods for these colorants often involve hazardous chemicals, high energy consumption, and significant waste generation. The 12 principles of green chemistry, proposed by Paul Anastas and John Warner in 1998, provide guidelines for sustainable product and system design. Principle 7, which emphasizes the use of renewable feedstock, can be applied to colorant production using fungi. Certain fungal species, particularly from the Ascomycota and Basidiomycota divisions, are capable of producing natural pigments. AT MNEXT-Avans, an Ascomycota species, produces a blue-green pigment, which has high potential applications in vairous sectors.

MNEXT has been investigating the use of fermentation technology to produce this colorant from fungal species. In this internship, the research focuses on two main objectives: obtaining mostly pure colorant crystals from fermentation as a lab standard, and identifying the best green solvent or method for extracting the pigment for non-food applications as a product. Analytical techniques such as HPLC-MS, H-NMR, and UV-VIS spectrophotometry will be utilized in this study.

Project objective

The primary objective of this internship project is to develop and optimize downstream processing methods for the extraction and purification of the blue colorant from fungal fermentation. The focus will be on achieving high purity and yield using environmentally friendly solvents and methods.

Project description

  1. Literature Review and Theoretical Background:
      • Conduct a comprehensive review of existing literature on fungal pigment production, the blue colorant properties, and green chemistry principles.
      • Understand the chemical and physical properties of the blue colorant and the factors affecting its stability and solubility.
  2. Downstream process design:
      • Develop and test various extraction methods using both conventional solvents (e.g., DCM) and green solvents (e.g., dimethyl carbonate, benzel achohol, and so on).
      • Optimize extraction parameters such as solvent concentration, stirring time, and cycle number and so on.
  3. Solubility and Stability Tests:
      • Conduct solubility tests to determine the best solvents for the blue colorant extraction.
      • Investigate the stability of the blue colorant under different conditions, including temperature, pH, and solvent type.
      • Analyze the impact of high concentrations on the structure of the blue colorant, focusing on intermolecular H-bonding and π-π stacking.
  4. Purification and Analysis:
      • Purify the extracted blue colorant using chromatographic techniques.
      • Analyze the purity and structure of the extracted blue colorant using HPLC-MS, H-NMR, and UV-VIS spectrophotometry.
      • Compare the efficiency and environmental impact of different extraction methods.
  5. Data Collection and Analysis:
      • Collect and analyze data on yield, purity, and solvent efficiency.
      • Use statistical tools to optimize extraction and purification processes based on experimental results.
  6. Comparative Analysis and Reporting:
      • Compare the performance of different extraction methods in terms of yield, purity, and environmental impact concerning green chemistry principles.
      • Document experimental procedures, results, and analyses in a detailed project report.
  7. Recommendations and Future Research:
      • Provide recommendations for scaling up the optimized extraction and purification process.
      • Suggest future research directions to further improve the sustainability and efficiency of fungal pigment production.

Expected outcomes

  • Identification of the best green solvent and extraction method for the blue fungal colorant.
  • Development of an optimized downstream processing method for high-yield, high-purity blue colorant production.
  • Enhanced understanding of the solubility and stability of blue colorant in different solvents and conditions.
  • Comprehensive project report with recommendations for industrial application and future research.

Skills and Competencies Gained

  • Hands-on experience with (bio)chemistry and downstream processing techniques.
  • Analytical skills in using HPLC-MS, H-NMR, and UV-VIS spectrophotometry.
  • Knowledge of green chemistry principles and their application in industrial processes.
  • Experience in data analysis, reporting, and project management.

Duration

This internship project will span 20 weeks, with a structured timeline for literature review, experimental work, data analysis, and reporting. The internship can start on 22nd August or 1st September, 2024.

Mentorship and Guidance

The intern will be supervised by experienced researchers (main supervisor will be Arnold Nijhuis, MNEXT, BBBP), with regular progress reviews and support to ensure the successful completion of project objectives. Please contact Arnold Nijhuis (awg.nijhuis@avans.nl) for questions or to sumbit your application, preferably before 25 June.

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