Breakthrough innovation for the bioeconomy
Industrial biomanufacturing takes advantage of advances in strain engineering, synthetic biology and bioprocessing to meet the imperative for sustainability. It promises the combined benefits of carbon dioxide utilisation, reduced consumption of petrochemical feedstocks and reduced land usage.
This new age of bioproduction means that a range of products, from fuel and textiles to energy and food, can now either be grown directly or synthesised in large bioreactors or fermenters. But while biomanufacturing has been demonstrated at the lab and pilot scale, industrialisation will require radical innovation and significant capital investment to meet the challenges of process intensification, plant efficiency and cost competitiveness.
For the techno-economics to work, manufacture scale-up requires the design of optimised reactors and processing equipment, targeting maximum product yield and process efficiency via improvements in the process analytics, control, automation, and downstream processing.
We briefly characterise the challenges we anticipate in the biomanufacturing workflow and within insights and case studies we describe some of the technologies we have invented for related industries.
As biomanufacturing processes are scaled up, from demonstration on the lab bench to pilot scale and eventually commercial production, novel bioprocessing hardware solutions are required that are designed for optimal utilisation and maximum yield under new conditions.
Designing such solutions requires the characterisation of complex processes, embodying the simultaneous actions of biochemistry, thermal transfers, fluid mechanics, agitation, mixing and stirring over a range of size scales.
Bioprocessing requires system monitoring and sophisticated process control to maintain optimal growth conditions. Sensors are an indispensable part of this loop – and often the most expensive part of existing bioprocess hardware.
As biomanufacturing processes are scaled up, the challenges of gaining access, and deriving insight, from sensors will only grow.
As systems are scaled up and process technologies shift from batch to continuous, downstream processing can become a bottleneck and cost driver. This creates opportunities for new technologies for aseptic fluid transfer, filtration and purification and other aspects of product clean-up.
At either end of the biomanufacturing workflow – from organism discovery to product finishing – the ability to print, deposit, or otherwise manipulate functional biological fluids or cells can unlock significant value. Biomaterials are often viscous with high particulate content, while cells require low shear handling to ensure viability.