Elucidating the Effects of Superficial Gas Velocity on Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) Production
Amabile, Claudia
Abate, Teresa
De Crescenzo, Carmen
Sabbarese, Simona
Capece, Giuseppe
Ciampa, Renato
Chianese, Simeone
Musmarra, Dino

How to Cite

Amabile C., Abate T., De Crescenzo C., Sabbarese S., Capece G., Ciampa R., Chianese S., Musmarra D., 2022, Elucidating the Effects of Superficial Gas Velocity on Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) Production, Chemical Engineering Transactions, 92, 271-276.


Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are a very promising alternative to traditional plastic materials since they are biobased and can degrade in soil, water, and sediments. Among all the existing PHAs, Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) is the most well-known homopolymer. However, to the current state, PHAs represent only about 2% of the total bioplastics produced because their diffusion on a large scale is still limited due to their high market price. Techno-economic assessments showed that raw materials, such as sugars and oils account for up to 40% of the total costs. In this work, an innovative PHB production process scheme is presented. The expensive carbon sources are replaced by methane, which is cheap, abundant, and can be found as natural gas and in the biogas derived from the anaerobic digestion, thus allowing an integrated biorefinery. Process simulations were carried out to estimate the Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate production yields. Two aerobic fermentations were simulated into 400L semi-continuous reactors: the first for biomass growth in the presence of micro and macro-nutrients; the second for the PHB accumulation in a nutrient-deprived medium. Since both the biomass growth and PHB accumulation reactions take place in the liquid phase, the mass transfer from a gas to a liquid need to be maximised to increase biopolymer production. In this context, the effects of the superficial gas velocity (Ug) on the mass transfer rates and PHB yields were assessed. Several values of Ug, in the range 0.004 to 0.027 m s-1, that does not limit the viability of the cells, were tested. The PHB production increased with the superficial gas velocity.