What is Fermentation – Fermentation Process in Biotechnology



The word fermentation is derived from the Latin verb ‘fervere’ which means ‘ to boil’. Fermentation refers to the metabolic process in which organic molecules (normally glucose) are converted into acids, gases, or alcohol in the absence of oxygen or any electron transport chain. The study of fermentation, its practical uses is called zymology and originated in 1856, when French chemist Louis Pasteur demonstrated that fermentation was caused by yeast. Fermentation occurs in certain types of bacteria and fungi that require an oxygenfree environment to live. The processes of fermentation are valuable to the food and beverage industries, with the conversion of sugar into ethanol to produce alcoholic beverages, the release of CO2 by yeast used in the leavening of bread, and with the production of organic acids to preserve and flavor vegetables and dairy products.

Bioreactor ( Fermentor)

Bioreactor (Fermentor) is a vessel or a container that is designed in such a way that it can provide an optimum environment in which microorganisms or their enzymes interact with a substrate to produce the required product. In the bioreactor aeration, agitation, temperature and pH are controlled. Fermentation involves two process namely upstream and downstream process.

i. Upstream process

All the process before starting of the fermenter such as sterilization of the fermenter, preparation and sterilization of culture medium and growth of the suitable inoculum are called upstream process.

ii. Downstream process

All the process after the fermentation process is known as the downstream process. This process includes distillation, centrifuging,filtration and solvent extraction. Mostly this process involves the purification of the desired product.

Procedure of Fermentation

a. Depending upon the type of product, bioreactor is selected.

b. A suitable substrate in liquid medicine is added at a specific temperature, pH and then diluted.

c. The organism (microbe, animal/plant cell, sub-cellular organelle or enzyme) is added to it.

d. Then it is incubated at a specific temperature for the specified time.

e. The incubation may either be aerobic or anaerobic.

f. Withdrawal of product using downstream processing methods

Application of fermentation in industries

Fermentation has industrial application such as:

1. Microbial biomass production Microbial cells (biomass) like algae, bacteria, yeast, fungi are grown, dried and used as source of a complete protein called ‘single cell protein (SCP)’ which serves as human food or animal feed.

2. Microbial metabolites Microbes produce compounds that are very useful to man and animals. These compounds called metabolites, can be grouped into two categories:

a. Primary metabolites: Metabolites produced for the maintenance of life process of microbes are known as primary metabolites Eg. Ethanol, citric, acid, lactic acid, acetic acid.

b. Secondary metabolites: Secondary metabolites are those which are not required for the vital life process of microbes, but have value added nature, this includes antibiotics e.g -Amphotericin-B (Streptomyces nodosus), Penicillin (Penicillium chryosogenum) Streptomycin (S. grises) , Tetracycline (S. aureofacins), alkaloids, toxic pigments, vitamins etc.

3. Microbial enzymes

When microbes are cultured, they secrete some enzymes into the growth media. These enzymes are industrially used in detergents, food processing, brewing and pharmaceuticals. Eg. protease, amylase, isomerase, and lipase.

4. Bioconversion, biotransformation or modification of the substrate

The fermenting microbes have the capacity to produce valuable products, eg. conversion of ethanol to acetic acid (vinegar), isopropanol to acetone, sorbitol to sorbose (this is used in the manufacture of vitamin C), sterols to steroids.

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