Rheological properties and mechanical stability of new gel-entrapment systems applied in bioreactors

C. Vogelsang, R.H. Wijffels, K. Ostgaard

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    18 Citations (Scopus)


    The mechanical stability of gels applied for entrapment and retention of biocatalysts in bioreactors is of crucial importance for successful scale-up applications. Gel abrasion in agitated reactors will depend on liquid shear, bubble shear, and wall shear, as well as collisions between the gel particles. As a simplified standardized model system, abrasion of gel beads was studied in 1-m-high bubble columns with controlled aeration, and quantified by measuring the loss of gel material into solution. Gel beads were also taken out to measure stress-strain response during controlled compression. More general rheological properties of different gels were studied by applying a variety of regimes of controlled compression of standardized gel cylinders: Gel strength was measured by recording the fracture properties and the Young's modulus. Viscoelastic properties were revealed by recording creep during compression as well as recovery after compression. Oscillation tests up to 1000 cyclic compressions were applied to compare the fatigue of different gels. Results obtained for Ca-alginate gels, gels of chemically modified polyvinyl alcohol with stilbazolium groups (PVA-SbQ) as well as mixed gels of Ca-alginate and PVA-SbQ are compared with previously published data for -carrageenan, agar, and polyethylene glycol (PEG) gels. It is concluded that material fatigue rather than mechanical properties such as stiffness or fracture stress should be considered when selecting a suitable gel material on the basis of abrasion resistance. The very soft and superelastic PVA-SbQ gel showed no significant fatigue in mechanical tests and no abrasion was detected in the standardized model system used. Ca-alginate gels, however, showed severe irreversible changes due to fatigue at oscillating loads and creep at constant load. Due to their similarities with -carrageenan gels in mechanical tests, it is likely that Ca-alginate would also be sensitive to abrasion. Mixed gels of Ca-alginate and PVA-SbQ represent a complex system with intermediate properties, showing significant fatigue and creep, but elastic properties from the PVA-SbQ gel make it less sensitive than the pure Ca-alginate gel
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)247-253
    JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


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