• real-time monitoring;
  • shake flask fermentation;
  • disposable;
  • noninvasive;
  • optical sensor


Bioprocess development is a data-driven process requiring a large number of experiments to be conducted under varying conditions. Small-scale upstream bioprocess development is often performed in shake flasks because they are inexpensive and can be operated in parallel. However, shake flasks are often not equipped to accurately monitor critical process parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, and CO2 concentrations. Therefore, there is no definitive information on oxygen supply of growing cells, CO2 formation, and pH changes. Here we describe several shake flask fermentations where all three parameters are monitored by disposable noninvasive optical sensors. The sensitive element of these sensors is a thin, luminescent patch affixed inside the flask. Small electronic devices for excitation and fluorescence detection are positioned outside the shake flask for noninvasive monitoring. By measuring the process parameters throughout the course of the E. coli fermentations, we obtain information that is not routinely available in shake flask fermentations. For example, for cultures with only a few millimeters liquid depth, oxygen limitation can occur at relatively low agitation speeds. Under certain conditions oscillations in dissolved oxygen can occur. An increase in shaker speed and a decrease in culture volume can increase the oxygen availability and reduce the duration of oxygen limitation. © 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog.,, 2012