From Sugar to Oil with the Help of Intelligent Sensors
The global biotechnology industry is growing at approximately 11% per year and by 2015 is expected to be worth US $320 billion. This rapid growth is due in no small part to the innovations that biotech companies continue to make in modifying living organisms to develop commercial products.
Renewable oils from algae and glucose
One such company is California-based Solazyme. Since its inception in 2003, Solazyme has used its proprietary biotechnology to produce a wide range of renewable oils for nutritional, cosmetic, chemical and transportation use; all of them produced from microalgae and plant-based sugars.
Most algae use a photosynthetic process to produce their own nutrients. Solazymeʼs proprietary strains of heterotrophic algae grow in large stainless steel fermenters and are fed glucose derived from corn, switchgrass, Miscanthus grasses or other form of sustainable biomass. In the presence of oxygen and in carefully controlled conditions, the bioengineered algae convert the sugar into tailored triglyceride oils. Most wild forms of algae contain 5 – 10% triglyceride oil. Solazymeʼs patented strains contain over 80%.
Bunge Limited is a leading agribusiness and food company that operates 400 facilities in over 40 countries. Near the Brazilian city of Moema, and adjacent to a Bunge-operated sugarcane mill, Bunge and Solazyme are constructing a 110,000 metric ton renewable oil production facility.
Innovative use of sugarcane
At the Moema plant it is sugarcane that will provide the energy source for the algae. The cane will pass through the normal first stages of sugar production until pure sucrose juice is obtained. This will be transferred to the fermenters where the genetically-modified algae will feed on the sucrose and rapidly multiply. When maximum biomass is achieved, oil extraction will be carried out through a drying process.
Efficient fermentation requires highly reliable sensors
Achieving maximum yield from the fermentation processes will be dependent on the control of physical and analytical parameters throughout the batch run. As with any other fermentation process, pH and dissolved oxygen (DO) levels will play a critical role, so Solazyme / Bunge want in-line sensors that will provide accurate measurements and operate reliably. They approached METTLER TOLEDO to explore available solutions. We suggested our high accuracy, low maintenance InPro 3253i pH and InPro 6850i DO probes that easily tolerate repeated sterilization cycles.
Intelligent Sensor Management provides major benefits
It is not just the performance of our sensors that attracted Solazyme / Bunge to METTLER TOLEDO. They were drawn to the added benefits that our Intelligent Sensor Management (ISM®) technology brings. ISM simplifies sensor handling and increases measurement reliability, but more importantly to Solazyme / Bunge, it offers predictive sensor diagnostics. ISM diagnostics will provide them with a level of measurement assurance that is not possible with analog sensors.
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