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Biological processing in oscillatory baffled reactors: operation, advantages and potential

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matt Abbott, Professor Adam Harvey


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The development of efficient and commercially viable bioprocesses is essential for reducing the need for fossil-derived products. Increasingly, pharmaceuticals, fuel, health products and precursor compounds for plastics are being synthesized using bioprocessing routes as opposed to more traditional chemical technologies. Production vessels or reactors are required for synthesis of crude product before downstream processing for extraction and purification. Reactors are operated either in discrete batches or, preferably, continuously in order to reduce waste, cost and energy. This review describes the oscillatory baffled reactor (OBR), which, generally, has a niche application in performing 'long' processes in plug flow conditions, and so should be suitable for various bioprocesses. We report findings to suggest that OBRs could increase reaction rates for specific bioprocesses owing to low shear, good global mixing and enhanced mass transfer compared with conventional reactors. By maintaining geometrical and dynamic conditions, the technology has been proved to be easily scaled up and operated continuously, allowing laboratory-scale results to be easily transferred to industrial-sized processes. This is the first comprehensive review of bioprocessing using OBRs. The barriers facing industrial adoption of the technology are discussed alongside some suggested strategies to overcome these barriers. OBR technology could prove to be a major aid in the development of commercially viable and sustainable bioprocesses, essential for moving towards a greener future.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Abbott MSR, Harvey AP, Perez GV, Theodorou MK

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Interface Focus

Year: 2013

Volume: 3

Issue: 1

Pages: 20120036

Print publication date: 01/02/2013

ISSN (print): 2042-8898

ISSN (electronic): 2042-8901

Publisher: ROYAL SOC


DOI: 10.1098/​rsfs.2012.0036