One of our major interest is the use of protein/enzymes crystals as auto-supported catalyst and/or sensors.
Crystals grown in gel incorporate 100% of the gel-matrix in the crystals producing a new type of composite materials we called Reinforced Crystals (RCLECs/RCLPCs »).
By choosing the gel nature, i.e. agarose (Gavira & Garcia-Ruiz, 2002), silica (Gavira et al., 2013), PEGs (Gavira et al., 2014) or short-peptides hydrogels (Conejero et al., 2015) and the gel concentration, it is possible to produce a wide range of different materials of tuned composition.
Gels also provide a way to control the nucleation density and crystal shape. Moreover gels facilitate the incorporation of the crosslinker in a diffusion-reaction-system avoiding any osmotic stress.
We have developed a microfluidic system that allows the crystallization of enzymes by batch method. After crystals are stabilized (cross-linked) it is possible to carry on the enzymatic reaction within the crystal many times while preserving their activity (Conejero-Muriel et al., 2015). We have also developed a multiple-path photonic-chip for the continuous concentration measurements with minute amounts of the sample (Rodríguez-Ruiz et al., 2015).More recently both devices were merged to create the OCERs (optofluidic CLEC-based enzymatic reactor), assayed with Lipase as a proof of concept (Conejero-Muriel et al., 2016).
Lysozyme crystal grown in solutin and in gel, agarose or silica, in situ cross-linked with glutaraldehyde.
Schematic of the OCER platform and detail of lipase crystals. Image correspond to Fig. 1 of Conejero-Muriel et al., 2016.