Bioreactor Design Evolution
What is a Bioreactor?
In simple terms, a bioreactor is a vessel in which a biological reaction (bioprocess) takes place under optimal controlled conditions to achieve maximum product formation. We are quite familiar with today’s bioreactor design – a modern glass or stainless-steel bioreactor, however the truth is that bioreactors date back thousands of years.
The History of Bioreactors
In 2004 Archaeologists were able to chemically test Neolithic Chinese pottery dating from around 7000 B.C. and identified residue of fermented drinks which were produced from fruit, rice and honey. This is the earliest known example of brewing. Throughout history civilisations have utilised clay pots and other vessels to create the prime anaerobic conditions for the fermentation of foods, wine and beer.
Bioreactor Parts and Their Functions
As our understanding and technology advanced, we were able to progress to aerobic conditions in the early 20th century. Chaim (Charles) Weizmann, while teaching at the University of Manchester, discovered that he could produce synthetic acetone by industrial fermentation using the bacterium Clostridium Acetobutylicum. Attaining aerobic conditions is not without challenge, the requirement for suitable mixing and adequate aeration meant that sophisticated equipment had to be developed.
Vessels were developed with perforated pipes in the base to introduce air. A short while later mechanical impellers were developed to increase mixing and disperse the air bubbles and baffles were added to the vessel walls to prevent vortex formation. Furthermore, it was soon understood that aseptic conditions were important, and systems were created whereby pipework and vessels could be sterilised.
Historical Medical Advances using a Bioreactor
The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in the 1920s signalled the beginning of ‘The Age of Antibiotics’. Produced by bacteria and fungi, antibiotics are capable of inhibiting or even killing competing microbial species. In the following years, the realisation that penicillin could greatly improve therapeutic medicine resulted in a huge drive to develop and optimise a method of production for research purposes, and later for mainstream production. During the intervening years great advances were made in our understanding of yield optimisation, the need for anti-foam agents and the need to control the temperature of the vessel during fermentation.
Towards the end of the WWII penicillin was used to the treat the infected wounds of military personnel with incredible success. This led to an exponential increase in the demand for penicillin and with it the rapid development of bioreactors. Industrial scale bioreactors were developed to meet the demand of production and by 1945 around 7 trillion units of penicillin were produced in the USA. In the following years bioreactors were mostly used for growing bacterial cultures. Bioreactor usage became more diverse and by the 1990’s they were used to culture algae, plant and mammalian cells.
In the 2000’s the bioreactor market continued to evolve with the development of single-use bioreactors. In the pharmaceutical industry it is increasingly common for companies to produce multiple products within the one manufacturing facility. Such operations require rigorous clean downs, cleaning validations and line clearances to be performed to ensure there is no carryover from one manufacture to the next.
Therefore, in a bid to minimise cost and down-time from sterilisation manufacturers may opt to use single-use bioreactors for specific cultivations which tend to have low oxygen demand. Although time and cost savings are an advantage to single-use bioreactors they are not suitable for all applications and reusable (sterilisable) bioreactors lend themselves to a wider range or processes.
Laboratory Bioreactors from Froilabo
Currently, bioreactor automatization is a strong focus as our laboratories are becoming increasingly ‘smart’. Advanced systems enable laboratory users to monitor equipment remotely and even sample automatically. Laboratory bioreactors are at the centre of biotechnology and are used in medical, industrial, environmental and agricultural applications. The advancements made over the last 80 years have changed the landscape of biotechnology. There is no doubt that bioreactors will continue to progress and respond to changing demands.
The Froilabo fully automated laboratory scale stirred-tank bioreactors have a wide range of application possibilities including academia, research, process development & optimisation, scale up and production. Our benchtop bioreactors are suitable for microbial fermentation (fungi, yeast, or bacteria) or cell cultivation (mammalian or plant cells) processes.
Featuring a novel magnetic mixer and non-welded lid, our vessels are ideal for bioprocesses which require high-grade aseptic conditions. The design of the mixers enables numerous customisation options for the rotor layout. This means impeller placements, amount and type can be adjusted to best suit the application. The impellers may be welded or detachable as required.
The autoclavable single walled borosilicate glass vessels are available in three different volumes to make process scaling simple. An intuitive touchscreen on the bioprocess controller enables convenient control of all aspects of the bioprocess. The controller is equipped with a peristaltic pump system, power control unit, gas supply system and a thermostat. The service connections on the controller are clearly designated and many feature quick connect fittings.
Explore Froilabo’s fully automated laboratory scale bioreactor range today.