RWPV bioreactor mass transport: Earth-based and in microgravity


  • Cynthia M. Begley,

    1. United Space Alliance, L. B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas 77058
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  • Stanley J. Kleis

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Houston, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Houston, Texas, 77204-4002; telephone: (713) 743-4536; fax: (713) 743-4503
    • University of Houston, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Houston, Texas, 77204-4002; telephone: (713) 743-4536; fax: (713) 743-4503
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Mass transport and mixing of perfused scalar quantities in the NASA Rotating Wall Perfused Vessel bioreactor are studied using numerical models of the flow field and scalar concentration field. Operating conditions typical of both microgravity and ground-based cell cultures are studied to determine the expected vessel performance for both flight and ground-based control experiments. Results are presented for the transport of oxygen with cell densities and consumption rates typical of colon cancer cells cultured in the RWPV. The transport and mixing characteristics are first investigated with a step change in the perfusion inlet concentration by computing the time histories of the time to exceed 10% inlet concentration. The effects of a uniform cell utilization rate are then investigated with time histories of the outlet concentration, volume average concentration, and volume fraction starved. It is found that the operating conditions used in microgravity produce results that are quite different then those for ground-based conditions. Mixing times for microgravity conditions are significantly shorter than those for ground-based operation. Increasing the differential rotation rates (microgravity) increases the mixing and transport, while increasing the mean rotation rate (ground-based) suppresses both. Increasing perfusion rates enhances mass transport for both microgravity and ground-based cases, however, for the present range of operating conditions, above 5–10 cc/min there are diminishing returns as much of the inlet fluid is transported directly to the perfusion exit. The results show that exit concentration is not a good indicator of the concentration distributions in the vessel. In microgravity conditions, the NASA RWPV bioreactor with the viscous pump has been shown to provide an environment that is well mixed. Even when operated near the theoretical minimum perfusion rates, only a small fraction of the volume provides less than the required oxygen levels. @ 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biotechnol Bioeng 80: 465–476, 2002.