Computational Fluid Dynamics of Bioreactors with Micro-Aeration

James Lischeske, Mohammad Rahimi, Hariswaran Sitaraman, Jonathan Stickel

Research output: NRELPoster


Recent work has probed the potential for using Zymomonas mobilis as a flexible platform for the production of advanced fuels and intermediates. One set of recombinant organisms requires a micro-aerobic environment to promote the production of the desired product (2,3-BDO), but the economics and process-control implications of this approach are uncertain at industrial scale. Computational multi-physics models have the potential to describe the fermentation in detail at multiple scales, reducing the risk of scale-up. A two-phase Euler-Euler CFD model is used alongside a simple model of oxygen uptake to describe this bioreaction. A few reactor vessels, including airlift and CSTR bioreactors, are analyzed at multiple scales, regions of oxygen-depletion and over-oxygenation are characterized, and the bioreactors are compared. We show that it is difficult to achieve homogenous oxygen concentrations in industrial-scale CSTR reactors and that advanced bioreactor designs are needed for economical operation.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePresented at the Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, 27 April - 2 May 2019, Seattle, Washington

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5100-73789


  • BCPL
  • biofuels
  • bioreaction
  • bioreactor designs
  • economic production
  • reactor vessels


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