SBRC Fermenters

We have established arguably the best-equipped academic lab-scale research facility in gas-fermentation in Europe and certainly in the UK.  

With world-leading industrial process-engineering expert input, we have designed what we believe is one of the safest lab-scale fermentation suites able to utilise Hydrogen gas (H2).

It focuses both on:

  • screening experiments and
  • fermentation experiments  

Data and information generated from the many fermentation cycles are linked with a team of mathematical modellers who dedicate their time to the analysis and mapping of energetics in metabolic systems under fermentation conditions.  The construction and analysis of genome wide and metabolic networks and the iterative optimization of fermentation conditions and chassis are determined through close collaboration with the bench scientists.  

The research group also has extensive microbial and genetic engineering expertise in this area. 

Bioreactors

We have several bioreactors for aerobic Carbon dioxide (CO2) assimilation that are equipped with:

  • Hydrogen (H2) and
  • Oxygen (O2) gases

They are used primarily for the cultivation of Cupriavidus strains.

This bioreactor system is a unique lab-scale, efficient gas-fermentation unit available to perform aerobic CO2 or aerobic Carbon monoxide (CO) based cultivations.  

Safety

  • For safety considerations, all the bioreactors are operated inside a continuous flow extraction cabinet.  ATEX rated solenoid valves and relief valves are in place on the H2 supply and a H2 flame detector is in place, connected to an electrical supply shut-off in case of failure to remove sources of ignition, as well as triggering the solenoid valves to default close and isolate the H2 supply.
  • Prior to these safety features, we have specially designed software for cutting off the H2 and O2 gas supplies and flushing Nitrogen gas (N2) through the system, triggered by O2 level sensors in place to control the gas mixture ratio’s below the flammable level, i.e. ≤ 5 %.
  • Finally we have placed polycarbonate sheet protection around the bioreactor vessels to act as blast-shields as a last failsafe in event of explosive conditions being created.  A detailed Hazard and Operability (HAZOP) study will be performed to ensure complete safety.

The unique facilities and the breadth of gas fermentation research activity both attract renowned researchers as well as early career researchers from around the world to spend time in the SBRC. Hence, we routinely welcome researchers (including graduate students and established professors) from abroad to work in the SBRC.  

Gas Fermentation Suites

We have three Gas fermentation suites, including anaerobic bioreactors with online and offline monitoring.  

Each suite consists of several sets of lab-scale multiplexed fermenters:

  • Eppendorf DasGip;
  • Eppendorf New Brunswick BioFlo 115;
  • Infors Microfors,

facilitating batch-fed and continuous fermentation capabilities.  

All bioreactors are glass vessels around 0.5L - 2L and not suited for pressurised processes. It is a unique facility due to the number of available identical fermenters (6 - 8 identical units for each system) which makes it ideal for comparing different operating conditions.  To support all this fermentation effort there is a diverse suite of analytical equipment (GC-MS, LC-MS-MS, HPLC, GC).

BioLectors

We have a BioLector Pro which enables up to 48 simultaneous fermentations (2ml) to be performed making it ideal for screening fermentation performance, and also provides micro channel dosing between plate-wells for pH control and media feeding. Our RoboLector enables automation and robotized handling both dosing and sampling.  

Both have been modified to be able to work with gasses. This is essential to test for conversion of gas to products and makes it a unique set-up.