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Pure Appl. Chem., 2003, Vol. 75, No. 7, pp. 859-873

Molecular thermodynamics for some applications in biotechnology

J. M. Prausnitz

Chemical Engineering Department, University of California, Berkeley and Chemical Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

Abstract: As biotechnology sweeps the world, it is appropriate to remember that the great virtue of thermodynamics is its broad range of applicability. As a result, there is a growing literature describing how chemical thermodynamics can be used to inform processes for old and new biochemical products for industry and medicine.A particular application of molecular thermodynamics concerns separation of aqueous proteins by selective precipitation. For this purpose, we need phase diagrams; for constructing such diagrams, we need to understand not only the qualitative nature of phase equilibria of aqueous proteins, but also the quantitative intermolecular forces between proteins in solution. Some examples are given to show how aqueous protein-protein forces can be calculated or measured to yield a potential of mean force and how that potential is then used along with a statistical-thermodynamic model to establish liquid -liquid and liquid -crystal equilibria. Such equilibria are useful not only for separation processes, but also for understanding diseases like Alzheimer’s, eye cataracts, and sickle-cell anemia that appear to be caused by protein agglomeration.