Integration of pH Control into Chi.Bio Reactors and Demonstration with Small-Scale Enzymatic Poly(ethylene terephthalate) Hydrolysis

Mackenzie Denton, Natasha Murphy, Brenna Norton-Baker, Mauro Lua, Harrison Steel, Gregg Beckham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Small-scale bioreactors that are affordable and accessible would be of major benefit to the research community. In previous work, an open-source, automated bioreactor system was designed to operate up to the 30 mL scale with online optical monitoring, stirring, and temperature control, and this system, dubbed Chi.Bio, is now commercially available at a cost that is typically 1-2 orders of magnitude less than commercial bioreactors. In this work, we further expand the capabilities of the Chi.Bio system by enabling continuous pH monitoring and control through hardware and software modifications. For hardware modifications, we sourced low-cost, commercial pH circuits and made straightforward modifications to the Chi.Bio head plate to enable continuous pH monitoring. For software integration, we introduced closed-loop feedback control of the pH measured inside the Chi.Bio reactors and integrated a pH-control module into the existing Chi.Bio user interface. We demonstrated the utility of pH control through the small-scale depolymerization of the synthetic polyester, poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), using a benchmark cutinase enzyme, and compared this to 250 mL bioreactor hydrolysis reactions. The results in terms of PET conversion and rate, measured both by base addition and product release profiles, are statistically equivalent, with the Chi.Bio system allowing for a 20-fold reduction of purified enzyme required relative to the 250 mL bioreactor setup. Through inexpensive modifications, the ability to conduct pH control in Chi.Bio reactors widens the potential slate of biochemical reactions and biological cultivations for study in this system, and may also be adapted for use in other bioreactor platforms.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1599-1607
Number of pages9
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2A00-89310


  • biotechnology
  • modification
  • peptides and proteins
  • pH
  • probes


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