With the advent of synthetic biology on the horizon, many advanced technological tools for enabling new techniques for synthesis will determine the success rate of bringing novel bioproducts to the market, including manufacturing biomaterials, bioenergy and biopharmaceuticals from synthesized biomimetic components (Sarikaya et al., 2003). The basic tools of genetics integrated with the new tools of tunable solvents such as supercritical fluids, superheated fluid extraction (Morales-Munoz et al., 2005) and a pH-tunable medium (Yao and Chmielewski, 1999) and physical medium such as biologically controlled microfluidic and microarray devices where synthetic biological reactions may rapidly occur in a controllable order. Bridging these novel technologies, through collaborations of biological engineers and scientists, will enable the next step in the evolution of synthetic biology to tackle the challenge of using these smaller biological and physical tools to create larger integrated biosystems with increasing functionality. Tunable solvents will play a significant role in meeting the challenges of controllable tools to function in biosynthesis in vitro as well as in vivo, as in the case of dispersing targeted biocompounds into specific tissue layers of biological systems (Turk et al., 2002).
With increasing interest in biofuels as a replacement for non-renewable sources of oil, coal, uranium, etc., supercritical extraction and synthesis techniques will emerge in the near future - as in supercritical methanol or ethanol synthesis of methyl or ethyl esters in biodiesel (Madras et al., 2004; Cao et al., 2005) and intermediates for surfactant manufacture. Removal of heavy metals from water streams and contaminated soils has been of major interest in environmental clean-up technologies where a wealth of information on the potential supercritical solvent technologies with the aid of fluorinated solvents, including supercritical water as well as CO2, has been reported (Walker et al., 1999). The concept of pH switching with supercritical CO2 was described by Hanrahan et al. (2003). As with all emerging technologies, their future depends on unlimited imagination and creativity at the interface of the science, art and engineering from which they emerge.
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