Interview mit Prof. John Woodley, Technical University of Denmark

1. Can you please explain why and where bioprocess engineering matters for sustainability in the process industry?

"It is widely seen that a key benefit of using bioprocesses is that they operate under very mild (ambient) process conditions. This has clear sustainability benefits. Likewise, many bioprocesses (although not all)  focus on the use of renewable (even if not sustainable) feed-stocks. To be sustainable it is necessary that the feedstock is cheap, renewable and available (i.e. not in competition with food). These two benefits are both widely cited not only as economic benefits but also sustainability benefits of using bioprocesses. However to be truly sustainable it is also necessary that processes achieve a certain process intensity (i.e. an adequate product concentration and productivity). This is where many bioprocesses fail in terms of sustainability, and yet it is also one of the most important targets to achieve. Indeed. this is the key role that bioprocess engineering plays, and in many cases it is the difference between a sustainable and non-sustainable bioprocess."


2. What is needed for developing sustainable bio-based production processes ?

"First, to focus on better selection of feed-stock, ensuring they are not just renewable, but also cheap and available is obvious as a development target. Many have recognized that in the move towards gaseous feed-stocks for fermentation for example. However if even greater importance is the need to focus on process intensification using techniques such as molecular biology but also complemented by process approaches such as in-situ product removal and cell-free approaches to enable far higher rate."


3. How can remaining hurdles for implementing industrial bioprocesses be overcome?

"First more research of the fundaments of process intensification, meaning a much better understanding of gas-liquid mass transfer (for oxygen as well as other gases), operation of processes at high concentrations (including ISPR), operation of cell-free systems (enhancing the stability of enzymes, and operating in non-aqueous media), as well as improved downstream processing technologies. And then secondly research into accelerating process development, in a more systematic way where we use past precedent to help make decisions."

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