Currying flavours using esters: eco-friendly synthesis of highly liposoluble and antioxidant esters by immobilized lipases

Scientists from Oil Crops Research Institute (OCRI) of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), Anhui Agricultural University (Anhui, China), Newcastle University in Singapore, and Huizhou Comvikin Biotechnology Co., Ltd (Guangdong, China) have developed a green and efficient approach to synthesize highly liposoluble and antioxidant L-ascorbyl esters by immobilized lipases.

Enhancing the flavour of a meal

An ester is a type of chemical compound that is formed by the reaction between an alcohol and a carboxylic acid. It has a characteristic sweet and fruity odor and is used in the manufacture of flavors, fragrances, and plastics. Esters are also found in many natural substances such as fats, oils, and waxes.

The permitted antioxidant in baby food is L-ascorbyl palmitate, but its low liposolubility limits its commercial demand. A team of researchers, led by Professor Mingming Zheng and Dr Yi Zhang from  Oil Crops Research Institute, has proposed a more efficient and environmentally-friendly method for synthesizing highly liposoluble unsaturated fatty acid ascorbyl esters using enzymatic catalysis by Lipase CaLB immobilized on ordered mesoporous silicon. In this approach, self-made immobilized lipases are used to catalyze the reaction that produces L-ascorbyl esters. These lipases are immobilized, meaning they are attached throughout the mesoporous carrier’s surface, which improves the catalytic stability and reusability of the lipases. Using unsaturated fatty acids as acyl donors results in the synthesized ascorbyl esters having better liposolubility (i.e. they can dissolve in fats and oils), a lower melting point, and comparable antioxidant activity to L-ascorbyl palmitate. 

Compared to traditional synthesis methods, this novel approach that utilizes enzymatic esterification is a more effective and cleaner method of synthesizing highly-soluble and antioxidant L-ascorbyl esters. It holds significant potential for implementation in industrial production.

The team leaders have submitted an application to patent this novel approach.  The work has a strong influence on current industry practices. It has received strong sustained support from the industry, namely Huizhou Comvikin Biotechnology Co., Ltd.

The work [1] has been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. The paper can be viewed at Additionally, the method of immobilized lipase microarray has also been applied to synthesizing cinnamic acid flavor esters. The team has published the findings in LWT Food Science and Technology; the paper [2] can be viewed at

The other members of the team are as follows: Tiantian Zhang (Anhui Agricultural University), Yi Zhang (Oil Crops Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences), Changyue Deng (Anhui Agricultural University), Huaying Zhong (Oil Crops Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences), Tingting Gu (Anhui Agricultural University), Zhongmu Han (Huizhou Comvikin Biotechnology Co., Ltd), and Associate Professor/Reader Kheng Lim Goh (Newcastle University in Singapore, who specialises in Materials Technology).

For further details and enquiry on potential collaboration, please contact Associate Professor Kheng Lim Goh at [email protected].


[1] Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 379, Part 2, 15 December 2022, 134772,

[2] LWT-Food, Science and Technology, Volume 173, 1 January 2023, 114322,

Published: 23 Feb 2023

Contact details:

Dr Kheng Lim Goh

172A Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 #05-01
SIT Building @ Nanyang Polytechnic
Singapore 567739

+65 6908 6073
Academic disciplines: 
Content type: 

Journal of Cleaner Production 379 (2022) 134772,

Funding information:

This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Project of China (2021YFD2100303), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31972038, 32272271), the Hubei Province Natural Science Foundation of China (2021CFB209), and the Anhui Provincial Science and Technology Plan Project (21235003).