The inclusion of biological processes in production processes has huge potential for industry. Bioprocess engineering helps to produce materials more efficiently than ever before; at the same time it opens up ways to new and often better products.
At the Institute for Bioprocess Engineering at the University of Stuttgart, the scientific teams are dealing with the whole range of biochemical engineering to design, analyse and optimise the production of substances in bioreactors and cell cultures. Systems biology is an important driver of bioprocess engineering. The University of Karlsruhe also focuses on bioprocess engineering. Florian Lehr is working on a production method that will enable the algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii to produce hydrogen on a large scale. A 3-litre-laboratory bioreactor is already available and provides the data that are required for the subsequent development of larger reactors. A 30-litre reactor will be set up in 2008 and the first 250-litre reactor is planned for 2010 (see article entitled “Algae for economical hydrogen production”).
An important prerequisite for the successful application of bioprocess engineering is the computer-assisted simulation and modelling of organism metabolisms that are to be included in production processes. Instead of using the classical “trial and error” principle, simulations are a far quicker and more cost-efficient method for assessing the effects of specific metabolic manipulations on the production of the desired substance (see article entitled “Insilico is designing Formula-One type bacteria”).The classical chemical industry also uses bioprocess engineering, for example for the production of enzymes. The production of monomers and polymers for the processing industry is an important field of the future. Bioproduction represents an ecological as well as increasingly economically interesting alternative to petrochemistry. Another field of application has developed in the industrialisation of food production. Big companies have an own process development department that uses biological systems to produce aromas and flavour enhancers such as the amino acid glutamate as well as valuable food additives (see article entitled “Tasting for research”).