Novel Foam Collector for Bioreactors

A foam collector to be used with bioreactors that would target and remove secondary metabolites produced and held within foam that is a product of the chemical reactions conducted.

The Need

Certain chemical reactions conducted in bioreactors, like aerobic fermentation, can produce a persistent foam that fills the headspace of the reactor vessels in which the reaction is taking place. This foam can be removed by introducing surface agents, but this is extremely undesirable as these agents can be deleterious to the products and will need to be removed before product isolation. Further, certain metabolites only present during short periods of time can be partitioned into the foam. These intermittent metabolites, if not collected, are typically degraded later on in the reaction by other enzymes produced by the reaction. So, a method for collecting the foam and subsequently analyzing and isolating the secondary metabolites is needed.

The Technology

This technology is a novel foam collector to be used with bioreactors. Currently, the presence of the foam is taught to be avoided in all chemical reactions. However, this technology promotes the production of the persistent foam. Once the foam is produced, it can be collected and returned to the bulk liquor, or collected separately and analyzed for the secondary metabolites, such as antimicrobial agents. This is completed by partitioning the metabolites into the foam and breaking the foam into a condensed foam liquid. The metabolites can then be removed from the foam and collected for various applications.

This method of foam collection is unique among the current technology. As stated above, the presence of foam is generally taught to be avoided, but this technology promotes its production and uses it as a means to collect metabolites that may only be present during specific, short periods of time within the chemical reactions. Using the current technology, these metabolites may be overlooked and therefore depleted by other products of the reaction. Although not typically the primary target of these reactions, these metabolites can be desirable and useful, and the foam provides a way for the metabolites to be collected and separated from the other components of the reaction. This invention provides not only a way to separate and purify short-lived metabolites, but it also minimizes end-product feed-back inhibition, thus speeding up the metabolic processes leading to these products.

Commercial Applications

  • Industrial biotechnology
  • Laboratory and pharmaceutical drug discovery


  • Reduced end-product feed-back inhibition
  • Faster metabolic processes
  • Concentration and separation of bioactive fermentation intermediates

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