Pluronic F68 is one of the most used shear protecting additives in cell culture cultivations. It is well known from literature that such surface-active surfactants lower the surface tension at the gas-liquid interface, which influences the mass transfer. In this study, the effect of Pluronic F68 on oxygen mass transfer in aqueous solutions was examined. Therefore, the gassing in/gassing out method and bubble size measurements were used. At low concentrations of 0.02 g/L, a 50% reduction on mass transfer was observed for all tested spargers and working conditions. An explanation of the observed effects by means of Higbie's penetration or Dankwerts surface renewal theory was applied. It could be demonstrated that the suppressed movement of the bubble surface layer is the main cause for the significant drop down of the kLa-values. For Pluronic F68 concentrations above 0.1 g/L, it was observed that it comes to changes in bubble appearance and bubble size strongly dependent on the sparger type. By using the bubble size measurement data, it could be shown that only small changes in mass transfer coefficient (kL) take place above the critical micelle concentration. Further changes on overall mass transfer at higher Pluronic F68 concentrations are mainly based on increasing of gas holdup and, more importantly, by increasing of the surface area available for mass transfer. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29:1278–1288, 2013
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