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BIOFERM — Result In Brief

Project ID: 508169
Funded under: FP6-SME
Country: Germany

Low-cost solution for enhanced fermentation

Although ultrasound irradiation has been shown to enhance fermentation, updating existing bioreactors or building new ones is expensive. EU-funded researchers developed an ultrasound system easily attached to existing bioreactors to bypass the problem.
Low-cost solution for enhanced fermentation
Bioreactors, reactors that carry out chemical reactions using the metabolic and catalytic activities of living cells, are widely implemented in the pharmaceutical industry, and food processing and treatment, wastewater treatment and biotechnology sectors. Wine fermentation has been based on this concept for hundreds and quite possibly thousands of years.

The European bio-fermentation industry has faced important stumbling blocks in enhancing performance due to tight restrictions related to genetics laws legislating the use of microorganisms.

Ultrasonic stimulation has been shown to enhance metabolic productivity of microbial, plant and animal cells in bioreactors. Such elevated activity could lead to substantial cost and time-savings and is thus an important area of research.

Fermentation processes, one area of particular industrial importance, have demonstrated enhanced ethanol production by yeast when subjected to low-power ultrasonic stimulation. However, ultrasound installation in existing reactors is quite expensive.

European researchers initiated the ‘Advanced manufacture of industrial bio-products by activated fermentation process’ (Bioferm) project to enable ultrasound treatment via a bypass system (not requiring installation within the reactor itself) for optimal and cost-effective biomass activation.

Scientists developed a simple universal system design to facilitate cost-effective exploitation at any scale.

Field tests of the prototype system yielded quite promising results. Applied to wine fermentation, ultrasonic irradiation had a positive effect on fermentation duration and sugar content of the final product. In addition, potential application to waste treatment, fish farming and the food and beverage industry was supported.

Given the ease of installation and low cost combined with demonstrated enhanced fermentation activity, commercial exportation negotiations were in progress at the time of the final report.

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