In multiphase fermentations where the product forms a second liquid phase or where solvents are added for product extraction, turbulent conditions disperse the oil phase as droplets. Surface-active components (SACs) present in the fermentation broth can stabilize the product droplets thus forming an emulsion. Breaking this emulsion increases process complexity and consequently the production cost. In previous works, it has been proposed to promote demulsification of oil/supernatant emulsions in an off-line batch bubble column operating at low gas flow rate. The aim of this study is to test the performance of this recovery method integrated to a fermentation, allowing for continuous removal of the oil phase. A 500 mL bubble column is successfully integrated with a 2 L reactor during 24 h without affecting cell growth or cell viability. However, higher levels of surfactants and emulsion stability are measured in the integrated system compared to a base case, reducing its capacity for oil recovery. This is related to release of SACs due to cellular stress when circulating through the recovery column. Therefore, it is concluded that the gas bubble-induced oil recovery method allows for oil separation and cell recycling without compromising fermentation performance; however, tuning of the column parameters considering increased levels of SACs due to cellular stress is required for improving oil recovery.
- microbial biofuels
- product recovery