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11/2014 Meet bbi at the International Algae Congress 2014 in Florence, Italy

Production and application of algae are subjects of many research projects worldwide. Algae are presented as a new sustainable resource for food, feed or biofuels. The green, blue or red unicellular organisms naturally grow with light and CO2 and produce a big variety of beneficial components. Most recent developments from the whole world of algae technology are going to be presented and discussed on this year’s International Algae Congress, which will be hold from 1st to 3rd December in Florence, Italy, under the organization of DLG and EABA.

bbi-biotech will participate at the congress, presenting the photobioreactor xCUBIO phar, which was particularly engineered for algae’s demands. A lecture about our algae-specific solutions for high-end biotechnology services will cover classical tubular photobioreactors as well as bioreactors and process technologies for GMP-compliant sterile heterotrophic algae production systems.

Microalgae Cultivation in Research and Production

Sterile Photobioreactor at Laboratory-Scale: xCUBIO phar

Worldwide, algae are mainly produced in open ponds, so-called raceway ponds, and in a smaller percentage of photobioreactors. Both system types supply algae with light, nutrients and CO2 and grow them until certain harvest levels. But the necessity of light supply sets limits to the algae production. The installations contain expensive thin translucent glass tubes or plastic plates and the volumetric biomass output is relatively low. Nonetheless, several companies from food and healthcare sector are now interested in algae, as some species e.g. produce colorants, which may substitute classic colorants from plant resources, as those market prices have recently increased a lot. The same effect can be discovered concerning polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which partly are essential for human nutrition and which are natural components of many algae species.

But algae have to fulfil several strong purity guidelines in this market field and they come under stronger price pressure. Neither open systems nor most closed photobioreactors are actually capable of reaching these requirements.

In-situ Sterilizable Photobioreactors

Heterotrophic Algae Production in-situ sterilizable Algae Bioreactor

Purity of microalgae cultures is hard to keep in photobioreactors over a long time due to their large surfaces. In case of growing very sensitive or even genetically modified algae strains, the contamination risk is particularly increased in current system solutions. But in fact, photobioreactors can be equipped for on-site steam sterilization by the integration of technologies from pharmaceutical processes up to a certain operating volume. The central issue is to fill every media contacting process device with hot steam for a certain time period to kill every foreign living organism and to produce a clean environment for the algae.

The practical implementation of in-situ sterilization in photobioreactors needs exact knowledge of the overall geometry and a specific choice of materials and devices, which have to be able to handle temperatures of more than 120 °C. In addition, engineering and design have to issue stronger safety regulations regarding both heat and pressure influences. A sophisticated control system has to track and ensure all procedures and sequences during the sterilization process.

bbi-biotech has already successfully implemented these design principles in several in-situ sterilizable photobioreactors, e.g. the Medusa-Airlift-Photobioreactors or some tubular glass photobioreactors with up to 30 litres operating volume. We gained valuable experience in these projects and successfully enlarged our expertise in production systems for particularly sensitive algae strains.

Heterotrophic Microalgae Production

Nature has supplied many algae species with excellent properties for artificial growth. They can use sugar or acetic acid for growth instead of light and CO2 – they grow heterotrophic instead of phototrophic. This allows producing algae in bioreactors and fermenters, which have been proven in classical biotechnology applications for more than 50 years. Algae can be grown to up to more than twenty-fold higher cell densities in steam-sterilizable culture vessels than in phototrophic production. The high cell density enables downstream technologies with increased efficiency and the biological purity of the algae sets new standards.

The general product applications are the same like from phototrophic production, but the highly concentrated heterotrophic algae can additionally supply inoculum biomass for other algae production installations. An expansive scale-up chain of some different bioreactors is reduced down to just one single efficient chain link. In addition, the sterilizable photobioreactors have the permission for heterotrophic cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMO). The mandatory security and product safety guidelines can easily be kept by the GMP-experienced bioreactor technology.

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About bbi-biotech

bbi is a well-known synonym for innovative fermenters and bioreactors. The bbi-biotech GmbH offers equipment and services for all process applications within biotechnology, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industry.

Core issues are our bioreactors and fermenters from the xCUBIO-toolbox. The modular xCUBIO-system contains predefined modules, which can quickly be arranged by client’s demands. The joint combination of newest technologies with decades of application experience allows us to supply solutions for all applications within the whole biotechnology sector. We provide turn-key bioreactor installations with own standardized vessels as well as project specific systems or disposable vessels of third-party suppliers.

Additionally, bbi-biotech provides the overall solution for automatic and sterile sampling from bioreactors and fermenters: bioPROBE. This novel system has been developed for dead-volume-free sampling of fluids to combine cultivation and downstream systems with process analytics.