Modeling of industrial-scale anaerobic solid-state fermentation for Chinese liquor production

Guangyuan Jin, Philipp Uhl, Yang Zhu, René H. Wijffels, Yan Xu*, Arjen Rinzema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Traditional solid-state fermentation processes can give fluctuating product quality and quantity due to difficulties in control and scale up. This paper describes an engineering study of an industrial-scale anaerobic solid-state fermentation process for Chinese liquor (Baijiu) production, aimed at better understanding of the traditional process, as an initial step for future optimization. This mixed-culture fermentation is done in 0.44-m3 vessels embedded in the soil. At this scale, the fermentation is limited by product inhibition. We developed mathematical models based on the Han-Levenspiel equation for product inhibition, with parameters derived from measured data. The models accurately predicted the concentrations of starch and dry matter. A model with radial conduction into a small soil volume around the fermenter and consecutive vertical conduction into the underlying soil accurately predicted the pit temperature in the heating and cooling phases. This model is very sensitive to the values used for the enthalpies of combustion, meaning that direct measurement of the heat production rate would be preferable. In the industry practice, the fermenter volume can be from around 0.20 to 15.00 m3. The model predicts that overheating will occur not only in larger fermenters, but also in the 0.44-m3 fermenters when the soil temperature is high in summer. Our model predictions are consistent with observed behavior in the industry. Our findings can be used to improve this traditional process, as well as similar systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124942
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2020


  • Chinese liquor
  • Heat transfer
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Product inhibition
  • Solid-state fermentation
  • Temperature modeling


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