New separation system for bio-surfactants

Ben Dolman, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

Challenge area: Bio-based and biodegradable surfactants and thickeners

A new gravity-based separation system can separate insoluble bioproducts from a fermentation broth, leading to dramatic economic improvements.

Many products can now be produced using microbes to convert renewable plant based resources into useful products. These environmentally friendly alternatives are often expensive to produce due to slow production requiring large bioreactors and expensive separation techniques.

For our separation system, the fermentation broth is pumped from the bioreactor into our separator, where the flow conditions enable a gravity separation of the product and the cells and substrate. The product can be collected and the cells and substrate recirculated to the bioreactor for continued production.

This separation enables fermentations be extended, reducing start up and cleaning costs, and the productivity can be increased, reducing the bioreactor size required for a given production rate. We have applied this technology to the production of biosurfactants, which are becoming an important component of environmentally friendly soaps and skin care products and roughly doubled the production rate and production quantity that can be achieved. We are looking to licence this technology, and develop collaborations to extend to additional bioproducts.