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A sound way to monitor fermentation

By Chemical Engineering |

The traditional way to check microbial growth in a fermentation process is to take a sample of slurry and analyze it in the laboratory, a procedure that is less than ideal because of the time delay in obtaining the information. Now, a method that does the job online, in real time, has been developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL; Richland, Wash.; edlinks.chemengonline.com/6898-533). In PNNL’s method, a transducer that serves as both transmitter and receiver is attached to the outside of the process vessel and transmits ultrasonic pulses through the wall into the slurry. The pulses are reflected by the microbial particles in the slurry and the progress of fermentation is determined by measuring changes in how fast the sound travels across the vessel and changes in the frequency and strength of the signal. Specifically, the return signals are digitized and analyzed for backscatter, velocity and attenuation, says scientist Kayte Denslow, “and from these data we calculate the bulk density of the slurry and the concentration and size of particles.” In cases where the slurry is especially dense, or the vessel is very large, two transducers may be used, with a transmitter on one side of the vessel and a…
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