BACKGROUND: Airlift bioreactors have been used extensively in biotechnology industries in recent years in a variety of arrangements and applications. The insertion of packing inside the bioreactors has the potential to provide high productivity within a compact size through utilizing immobilized species.
RESULTS: A novel recirculating external loop airlift bioreactor that has two rolls of fiberglass packing and a gas distributor in between was designed and built. Electrical resistance tomography (ERT) images showed that the gas holdup increased after installing the packing and the gas distributor. Gas holdup in the riser increased with decreasing static liquid height in the bioreactor. This decreased the liquid superficial velocity, which contributed to a higher gas holdup in the bioreactor. Results also showed that riser gas holdup varied slightly with different sparger configurations. Higher gas holdup increases the oxygen mass transfer rate by increasing the residence time and interfacial mass transfer area.
CONCLUSION: ERT results showed that fiberglass packing with an installed gas distributor in bioreactors can achieve higher gas holdup at higher superficial gas velocity. This can contribute to improved conversion in bioreactors with packing through utilizing higher biomass concentrations and higher oxygen concentration. © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry