Biocatalysis and Bioremediation


The course aims at providing fundamental principles on the emerging technologies for the biodegradation of pollutants and the biotransformation of waste or by-product feedstocks into value added products, such as biomaterials, using isolated enzymes or microorganisms.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Maria Ascenção Carvalho Fernandes Miranda Reis, Susana Filipe Barreiros


Weekly - 4

Total - 70

Teaching language





1. Biocatalysts and Enzyme Technology, K.Buchholz, V.Kasche, U.T.Bornscheuer, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

2. Industrial Biocatalysis, Peter Grunwald (ed.), Pan Stanford Series on Biocatalysis, Vol.1, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.

3. Bioremediation and Natural Attenuation- Process Fundamentals and Mathematical Models, P.J. Alvarez, W.A. Illman (Eds), Wiley InterScience, 2006.

4. Advances in Applied Bioremediation, Singh, Ajay, Kuhad, Ramesh Chander, Ward, Owen P. (Eds.), Springer, 2009.

5. Scientific papers.

Teaching method

Lectures covering topics of the course and combining problem solving. Laboratory classes. Guided research on suggested topics, with presentation of a seminar. For evaluation, each team (normally 3-4 students) must hand in reports based on the lab classes (1), and give a seminar (2). The evaluation normally comprises: (i) Oral discussions of elements 1 and 2 (60 % of the final grade), done in the presence of all the members of the team, although each student receives his/her own individual grade in what concerns performance during the oral discussion; (ii) Individual written test (40 % of the final grade). The site of the course in Moodle includes problems solved covering all the course topics, tests and exams of previous and current course editions with detailed solutions, a list of theoretical questions and extensive bibliography (papers).

Evaluation method

This course comprises 2 modules: Biocatalysis, and Biorremediation.

Each module has a number of components that are rated for evaluation. To qualify for evaluation students must take the laboratory classes and deliver a written report along the guidelines set out for the course, must prepare and present/hand in the seminars/projects indicated, in each case within the deadlines indicated. 

Weight of each component rated for evaluation in the Biocatalysis module:

Laboratory work and Excel mini-reports – 30 % 

Written midterm – 70 %

Weight of each component rated for evaluation in the Bioremediation module:

Laboratory work, report and discussion - 40 %

Seminar - 25 %

Written midterm – 35 %

To pass, students must score at least 9.5 points (on a 0-20 scale) in ecah component rated for evaluation.

The grade obtained in each module, rounded off to 1 decimal place, weighs 50 % of the final grade in the Biocatalysis and Bioremediation course.


Subject matter

Examples of biotransformations carried out on an industrial scale. Advantages of nonaqueous media (NAM). More sustainable NAM. Physico-chemical aspects of biocatalysis in NAM. Medium engineering. Methodologies for obtaining new/improved enzymes.

Enzyme and cell immobilization. Biocatalytic materials. Examples of application of NAM and/or enzymes: polymer foaming/impregnation, polymer recovery from waste feedstocks, polymer synthesis and functionalization, valorization of waste biomass, CO2 conversion. 

Principles of biotransformation by microorganisms (pure and mixed microbial cultures). Overview of the potential wastes (quantity and composition) to be converted into biomaterials. Microbial characterization (molecular biology). Biodegradation mechanisms (metabolism and kinetics and reactor configuration).

Emerging technologies using microorganisms for the production of biomaterials (e.g biopolymers and building blocks) and recovery of nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen).