Crit Rev Biotechnol 2020 Jun 14;40(4):555-569. Epub 2020 Apr 14.
Faculty of Applied Sciences, UCSI University, UCSI Heights, Kuala Lumpur, Cheras, Malaysia.
Aqueous biphasic system (ABS) is widely used in the recovery, extraction, purification and separation of proteins, enzymes, nucleic acids and antibodies. The ABS with high water content and low interfacial tension offers a biocompatible environment for the recovery of labile biomolecules. Process integration can be achieved using ABS by incorporating multiple-steps of purification, concentration and purification of biomolecules in a single-step operation which often results in high product recovery yield and purity. Conventional ABS is usually formed by aqueous solutions of two polymers or a polymer and a salt above a critical concentration. The high viscosity of polymer-based ABS causes slow phase separation and hinders the mass transfer of biomolecules, whereas polymer/salt ABS is characterized by high ionic strength resulting in the loss of bioactivity of recovered biomolecules. These limitations have encouraged the development of novel ABS which is more cost-effective for various biotechnological applications. This review discusses the characteristics and mechanisms of several types of emerging unconventional ABS using phase-forming components such as hyperbranched polymers, special salts, surfactants, magnetic fields, the addition of nanoparticles and incorporation of various solvent. Moreover, several novel applications of ABS for different separation purposes such as microfluidic-based ABS, ABS bioreactors, application of ABS as an analytical tool, and ABS micropatterning are discussed in this review. In the last section of this review, a comprehensive summary of process integration using ABS for extractive fermentations, bioconversion, crystallization and precipitation is also supplemented for the comprehensive review of various types and applications of ABS in recent years.