Biotechnology and Bioengineering vol:40 issue:2 pages:322-328
To investigate the effect of diffusional limitations and heterogeneous cell distribution in a gel-immobilized cell system, a gel membrane reactor has been constructed. The reactor consists essentially of a gel layer with immobilized cells, flanked by two well-mixed chambers. Through one chamber substrate is pumped, and this chamber is the equivalent of the outside of a spherical gel bead. The second closed measuring chamber contains a small quantity of liquid that can equilibrate with the inside surface of the membrane, eventually after a long transient. Analysis of the liquid in this chamber can give direct information on substrate and product concentrations at the gel surface, and is and indication of the situation in the center of a gel bead. The gel membrane reactor appears to be an excellent tool to study diffusion and reaction in a gel-containing immobilized cells. A mathematical model with time- and position-dependent cell concentration and diffusion coefficient is described. Experimental data show the effective diffusion coefficient of glucose in an alginate gel to decrease with yeast cell concentration. Moreover, kinetic parameters could be determined, using the mathematical model. Microscopic analysis confirmed the proliferation of the gel-entrapped microorganisms in the outer layer of the matrix, as predicted by the model. Potentially, this type of reactor has a clear potential to study the physiology of gel-immobilized cells.