Scale-down studies on the hydrodynamics of two-liquid phase biocatalytic reactors.

Bioprocess and biosystems engineering

PubMedID: 14508672

Cull SG, Lovick JW, Lye GJ, Angeli P. Scale-down studies on the hydrodynamics of two-liquid phase biocatalytic reactors. Bioprocess Biosyst Eng. 2002;25(3):143-53.
The maintenance of constant interfacial area per unit volume is a key parameter for the successful scale-up of two-liquid phase bioconversion processes. To date, however, there is little published information on the hydrodynamics of such systems and a suitable basis for scale-up has yet to be defined and verified. Here we report power input and hydrodynamic data for a whole-cell bioconversion process using resting cells of Rhodococcus R312 to catalyse the hydration of a poorly water-soluble substrate 1,3-dicyanobenzene (1,3-DCB). Experiments were performed in geometrically similar 3-L and 75-L reactors, each fitted with a three-stage Rushton turbine impeller system. The two-phase system used comprised of 20% v/v toluene dispersed in 0.1 M aqueous phosphate buffer containing up to 10 g(ww) x L(-1) of resuspended biocatalyst and 20 g x L(-1) 1,3-DCB. The power input to the 3-L reactor was first determined using an air-bearing technique for both single-phase and two-phase mixing. In both cases, the power number attained a constant value of 11 at Re>10,000, while the measured power inputs were in the range 0.15-3.25 kW x m(-3). Drop size distributions and Sauter mean drop diameters (d(32)) were subsequently measured on-line in both reactors, using an in-situ light-backscattering technique, for scale-up on the basis of either constant power input per unit volume or constant tip speed. At both scales d(32) decreased with increasing agitation rate, while the drop size distributions obtained were log-normal. All the measured d(32) values were in the range of 30-50 microm, with the lowest values being obtained in systems with biocatalyst present. In all cases, constant power input per unit volume was found to be the most suitable basis for scale-up. This gave virtually identical d(32) values and drop size distributions at both scales. A number of correlations were also identified that would allow reasonable prediction of d(32) values for various agitation rates at each scale. While the results obtained are for a particular phase system, the scale-down methodology presented here would allow the rapid evaluation of other bioconversion processes in the 3-L reactor with a 25-fold reduction in scale. In this way, potential problems that might be encountered at the larger scale, such as the carryover of antifoam from the fermentation stage, could be quickly and efficiently identified.