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Microbubble generator enhances performance of airlift bioreactor

By Gerald Ondrey |

A patented (WO 2008/053174), fluidic-oscillator-driven device that generates microbubbles has been shown by researchers from the University of Sheffield (U.K.; www.shef.ac.uk/cpe), in collaboration with the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (Prague; www.cas.cz/en), to improve the performance of air-lift loop bioreactors (ALBs). Up to 18% less energy is consumed for microbubble generation compared to conventional sparging systems, and the smaller bubbles (20 µm versus 1–3-mm dia.) lead to a 50-fold increase in mass transfer rates, says Will Zimmerman, a professor at the Dept. of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Sheffield.   The device consists of a fluidic jet-deflection amplifier — a stack of PMMA (poly- methylmethacrylate) plates with laser-milled cavities — coupled with a feedback loop. Air is supplied to the amplifier cavity and deflected to one prong or the other of a Y-shaped channel, and the oscillation (1–100 Hz) is controlled by the feedback loop — a tube of adjustable length between the two prongs. The air pulses emerging from one of the prongs then pass through a micro-machined nozzle before entering a distributor at the bottom of the ALB (diagram). In…
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