Same but different - Scale up and numbering up in electrobiotechnology and photobiotechnology

F. Enzmann, M. Stöckl, A.-P. Zeng, D. Holtmann

Facing energy problems, there is a strong demand for new technologies dealing with the replacement of fossil fuels. The emerging fields of biotechnology, photobiotechnology and electrobiotechnology, offer solutions for the production of fuels, energy, or chemicals using renewable energy sources (light or electrical current e.g. produced by wind or solar power) or organic (waste) substrates. From an engineering point of view both technologies have analogies and some similar challenges, since both light and electron transfer are primarily surfacedependent. In contrast to that, bioproduction processes are typically volume dependent. To allow large scale and industrially relevant applications of photobiotechnology and electrobiotechnology, this opinion first gives an overview over the current scales reached in these areas. We then try to point out the challenges and possible methods for the scale up or numbering up of the reactors used. It is shown that the field of photobiotechnology is by now much more advanced than electrobiotechnology and has achieved industrial applications in some cases. We argue that transferring knowledge from photobiotechnology to electrobiotechnology can speed up the development of the emerging field of electrobiotechnology. We believe that a combination of scale up and numbering up, as it has been shown for several photobiotechnological reactors, may well lead to industrially relevant scales in electrobiotechnological processes allowing an industrial application of the technology in near future.

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