We have established arguably the best-equipped academic lab-scale research facility in gasfermentation 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 H2 gas. 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 which dedicates its time to the energetics of metabolic systems in fermentation conditions, the construction and analysis of genome wide and metabolic networks and the iterative optimization of fermentation conditions and chassis through close collaboration with the bench scientists. The research group has also extensive microbial and genetic engineering expertise in this area.
Gas fermentation suites for aerobic CO2 assimilation
We have several bioreactors for aerobic CO2 assimilation that are equipped with H2 and 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 CO based cultivations. All the bioreactors are operated inside continuous extraction vents, with ATEX rated solenoid valves and relief valves in place on the H2 supply. There is H2 flame detection and electric supply shut-off in case of failure, polycarbonate sheet protection around the bioreactor vessel as a blast-shield, specially designed software for tripping off the H2 and O2 gas supply and supplying N2 gas as a failsafe scenario plus oxygen level control to below the flammable level, i.e. ≤ 5 %. 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.
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 (Dasgip, Eppendorf Microfors) facilitating batch-fed and continuous fermentation. The fermenters are glass fermenters around 1-1.5L and not pressurisable. It is a unique facility due to the number of available identical fermenters (8 identical units in one suite and 9 in another) 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).
We have a BioLector which enables 48 simultaneous fermentations (2ml) to be performed making it ideal for screening fermentation performance. Our Robolector enables automation and robotized handling. 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.