Many different compounds can be produced by using microorganisms or enzymes. An important element in the design of a viable biotechnological process is the selection of an economical and efficient separations train. Production of chemicals via biotechnology generally requires isolation and purification from dilute, aqueous solution. A general framework for separation process design relies on exploiting a unique molecular physicochemical property (or properties) for separating the molecule of interest from water and the other species in solution. Important properties that can be utilized for the recovery of low molecular weight polar compounds are molecular charge, hydrophobicity, Lewis acidity or basicity, volatility, and limited solubility. In turn, it can be useful to characterize molecular properties by using separation processes, such as, for example, hydrophobicity by measuring octanol/water partition coefficients. This paper reviews the use of adsorption onto hydrophobic, nonpolar macroreticular polymers and Lewis acid‐base complexation by using functionalized polymers for the recovery of amino acids, carboxylic acids, alcohols, and ketones from dilute aqueous solution. The focus will be on utilizing physical and chemical properties to predict uptake capacity. This information will be relevant to separation process development and will help to characterize molecular properties in aqueous solution.
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