Effect of Bioreactor Mode of Operation on Mixed-Acid Fermentations



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Using mixed-culture fermentation, the carboxylate platform produces carboxylic acids, which are chemically converted into chemicals and fuels. To optimize the mixed-acid fermentation, different bioreactor configurations and operating modes were investigated.

Intermittent air exposure did not affect fermentation performance and bacterial profiles, but reduced the high-molecular-weight carboxylic acids. The microbial flora contained strict and facultative microbes, suggesting the presence of a facultative anaerobic community existing in a biofilm.

Compared to countercurrent trains, propagated fixed-bed fermentations have similar selectivity and acid distribution, but lower yield, conversion, productivity, and acid concentration.

One- to six-stage countercurrent fermentations were operated with similar conditions. Fewer stages increased conversion, whereas more stages increased acid concentration and selectivity. One to four stages achieved similar yield, and four to six stages achieved similar maximum acid concentration. Maximum conversion was achieved with a single stage.

Recycling residual biomass retained microorganisms and nutrients and increased yield and productivity. Relative to lower biomass reflux, higher reflux increased conversion, decreased selectivity, and did not affect yield. The recommended carbon-nitrogen ratio is ~24 g carbon/g nitrogen. In four-stage fermentations, recycle to the second fermentor and in parallel to the first three fermentors was optimal.

Fermentations with excess or insufficient nitrogen had higher selectivity, but decreased yield and conversion.

The glucose-utilization assay is a rapid and repeatable method for determining the amount of microbial activity in a sample. This method determined ~25% efficiency of a new cell separation method.

In continuous fermentation, compared to no cell recycle, recycling cellular biomass increased selectivity and yield, but decreased conversion. Compared to lower cell reflux, higher reflux increased productivity, yield, and conversion, but decreased selectivity. Compared to residual biomass recycle, cell recycle had increased selectivity and yield, but decreased conversion.

A new method to screen and rank inoculum sources from natural environments was successfully developed and tested.