Batch Culture- Definition, Principle, Process, Applications, Limitations
Batch culture is a type of fermentation process in which a closed bacterial culture system is used to produce microbial products or biomass.
In batch culture, all the medium components (such as nutrients, vitamins, minerals, etc.) are placed in the reactor (also called fermenter or bioreactor) at the start of cultivation, except for atmospheric gases (such as oxygen or carbon dioxide), acid or base for pH control, and antifoaming agents.
There is a continuous change in the nutrient concentrations and the metabolite concentrations over time, and the system remains unsteady. The microbial metabolites may be produced at a primary or secondary stage of the microbial cultivation period.
Fermentation is terminated when either all the nutrient is exhausted or the desired concentration of product is achieved. The culture is then harvested and processed to obtain the final product.
Batch culture has the following advantages:
- Reduced risk of contamination or cell mutation as the growth period is short.
- Lower capital investment when compared to continuous processes for the same bioreactor volume.
- More flexibility with varying product/biological systems.
- Higher raw material conversion levels, resulting from a controlled growth period.
A batch culture principle is based on the idea of a closed system, where no additional nutrients or substrates are added to the fermenter after inoculation, except for oxygen, pH control agents, and antifoam agents. The batch culture operates under controlled environmental conditions, such as temperature, pH, aeration, and agitation. The batch culture terminates when one or more of the following criteria are met:
- The substrate or nutrients are exhausted
- The desired product concentration is achieved
- The fermentation time is predetermined
- The microbial growth is inhibited by toxic metabolites or environmental factors
The batch culture principle allows the microorganisms to utilize the available nutrients and substrates in the fermenter and produce various products through their metabolic activities. The products can be either primary metabolites, which are synthesized during the exponential growth phase, or secondary metabolites, which are synthesized during the stationary phase. The batch culture principle is suitable for the production of biomass, primary metabolites, and some secondary metabolites. However, it also has some limitations, such as changing environmental conditions, low productivity, high downtime, and product inhibition.
A batch culture process involves the following steps:
- Sterilization: The bioreactor and the medium are sterilized to eliminate any unwanted microorganisms that could contaminate the culture or affect the product quality. Sterilization can be done by heat, filtration, or chemical agents.
- Inoculation: The sterile medium is inoculated with a small amount of microorganisms (usually 2-5% of the total volume) that have been grown in a separate culture. The inoculum should be healthy, pure, and adapted to the medium and the process conditions.
- Fermentation: The inoculated medium is incubated at a suitable temperature, pH, and aeration for a certain period of time. During this time, the microorganisms grow and produce the desired product. The fermentation can be monitored by measuring parameters such as biomass concentration, substrate concentration, product concentration, dissolved oxygen, pH, and temperature.
- Harvesting: The fermentation is terminated when one or more of the following criteria are met: the microbial growth has stopped due to nutrient depletion or waste accumulation; the product concentration has reached a desired level; or a fixed predetermined time has elapsed. The product is then separated from the biomass and the residual medium by methods such as filtration, centrifugation, precipitation, extraction, or distillation.
- Cleaning: The bioreactor and the equipment are cleaned and prepared for the next batch. Cleaning can be done by using water, detergents, or disinfectants.
A batch culture process can be divided into four phases of microbial growth:
- Lag phase: This is the initial phase of adaptation where the microorganisms adjust to the new environment and synthesize enzymes and other molecules necessary for growth. There is little or no increase in biomass or product during this phase.
- Log phase: This is the phase of exponential growth where the microorganisms multiply rapidly and consume the substrate. The product formation is also high during this phase. This is the most desirable phase for biomass and primary metabolite production.
- Stationary phase: This is the phase where the growth rate slows down and becomes equal to the death rate. The substrate becomes limiting and the waste products accumulate. The product formation may continue or decline depending on the type of product. This is the most desirable phase for secondary metabolite production.
- Death phase: This is the phase where the death rate exceeds the growth rate and the biomass and product concentrations decrease. The culture becomes unstable and susceptible to contamination.
Batch culture is a widely used technique for the production of various products by microbial fermentation. Some of the applications of batch culture are:
- Biomass production: Batch culture can be used to grow large amounts of microorganisms for various purposes, such as baker`s yeast, probiotics, starter cultures, biofertilizers, biopesticides, etc. Batch culture is suitable for biomass production because it allows the control of growth conditions and the harvest of cells at the optimal phase.
- Primary metabolites production: Primary metabolites are compounds that are essential for the growth and maintenance of microorganisms, such as amino acids, organic acids, alcohols, etc. Batch culture can be used to produce primary metabolites by exploiting the exponential phase of growth, where the cells are actively synthesizing these compounds. For example, batch culture is used for the production of lactic acid, citric acid, acetic acid, ethanol, etc. by different microorganisms.
- Secondary metabolites production: Secondary metabolites are compounds that are not essential for the growth of microorganisms, but have some ecological or physiological functions, such as antibiotics, alkaloids, steroids, etc. Batch culture can be used to produce secondary metabolites by exploiting the stationary phase of growth, where the cells are subjected to nutrient limitation or stress conditions that induce the synthesis of these compounds. For example, batch culture is used for the production of penicillin, streptomycin, tetracycline, etc. by different microorganisms.
- Enzymes production: Enzymes are biocatalysts that can accelerate various chemical reactions. Batch culture can be used to produce enzymes by selecting microorganisms that have high enzyme activity or by genetically engineering them to overexpress the desired enzyme. Batch culture is suitable for enzyme production because it allows the control of pH, temperature, oxygen supply, and substrate concentration that affect the enzyme activity and stability. For example, batch culture is used for the production of amylase, protease, cellulase, lipase, etc. by different microorganisms.
- Biofuels production: Biofuels are renewable sources of energy that can be derived from biological materials. Batch culture can be used to produce biofuels by fermenting biomass or organic wastes into various products, such as biogas (methane), bioethanol (ethanol), biodiesel (fatty acid methyl esters), etc. Batch culture is suitable for biofuels production because it allows the utilization of diverse feedstocks and the optimization of fermentation conditions. For example, batch culture is used for the production of biogas by anaerobic digestion of animal manure or municipal solid waste.
These are some of the applications of batch culture in different industries. Batch culture is a simple and flexible technique that can be adapted to various microbial systems and products.
Batch culture has some disadvantages and limitations that affect its efficiency and productivity. Some of the major limitations are:
- Changing environmental conditions: As the nutrients are consumed and the metabolites accumulate in the culture medium, the microbes face constantly changing environmental conditions that may affect their growth and metabolism. For example, the pH, dissolved oxygen, osmotic pressure, and toxicity may vary over time and cause stress to the cells.
- High downtime: After reaching an endpoint, batch cultures must be restarted with a new batch of medium and inoculum. This involves emptying, cleaning, sterilizing, and refilling the bioreactor, which can take a long time and reduce the overall productivity. In large bioreactors, this downtime can be significant and costly.
- Low productivity: Batch culture has a low productivity compared to continuous or fed-batch culture, as the cells spend a considerable amount of time in the lag and stationary phases, where their growth rate and product formation are low or negligible. Moreover, the batch culture operates at a suboptimal substrate concentration, which limits the specific growth rate and product yield.
- Inhibition effects: Batch culture can suffer from substrate inhibition or catabolite repression effects, where high concentrations of substrate or product can inhibit the cell growth or enzyme activity. For example, glucose can cause Crabtree effect in yeast and bacteria, where ethanol or organic acids are produced even under aerobic conditions, reducing the cell yield and product quality.
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