Fermley - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Production of biofuels, biochemicals, biomaterials, and other bioproducts require microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, and fungi to generate these molecules. Several technologies producing these molecules are often developed in test tubes or small flasks. However, for commercial production, these technologies have to perform well in very large reactors, with volumes over 100,000 liters. Over the past few years, companies like Amyris and Genomatica have observed that the performance of a microbial culture in flask can be very different from that in a bioreactor, even if they are of the same volume, say 1L. It is almost impossible to re-create bioreactor type conditions in less than 200 mL. As such, scientists are often re-optimizing their technologies in 1-2L bioreactors. This re-optimization process is referred to as process development.
Process development can be time and resource consuming. As such, process development engineers and scientists are not able to perform many studies. Often researchers have to extrapolate results and take on much more risk at the pilot scale and commercial production than desirable. We are developing a technology to increase the number of process development studies by 5X that can be conducted with the same resources.