Can CFD Analysis Help Bioreactor Design And Operation?

by / Wednesday, 08 June 2016 / Published in MixIt Blog
San Antonio, TX, USA, June 8th, 2016

Bioreactors have the potential to become integral to the development of high-value products and reducing reliance on existing chemical-based commodity processes. Design of bioreactors for large scale production is complex and time consuming. Production scale reactors can be in the range of a million gallons in volume. The geometry and physical conditions in suchscales leads to inefficient process environment such as non-ideal mixing, nutrient and oxygen distribution, mass transfer and shear rate distribution. Experimental testing in lab and pilot, which are often used to establish the relationship between the reactor hardware and the mixing parameters, are both time consuming and expensive and does not always help map the underlying influence of reactor hardware and operating protocols on process yields. Relying only on experimental testsincreases the process development time scale and time to launchproducts thereby affecting the overall cost of the project. Alternatively, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) technology can be efficiently employed to develop a deeper understanding of the complex interaction between the reactor hardware, the process environment it generates and the process yields. Complimenting CFD based reactor analysis with experimental testing has shown to reduce the process development time while improving robustness of the reactor designs.

Tridiagonal has utilized CFD methods for bioreactor design and scale up. Some problems we have solved are listed below.

Case Study 1

Bio pharmaceutical processes are often shear sensitive. It is important to insure that the strain rate distribution is retained during scale up to reduce cell damage. Reducing impeller speeds to reduce shear could result in inadequate mixing. CFD calculations help generate shear rate histograms showing percent of time spent by fluid parcels in various shear zones. This enables efficient scale-up of a bioreactor from lab scale to production scale when shear is of concern.

Case Study 2

Non-ideal mixing in the bioreactor may hamper the nutrient transport leading to concentration gradient in the nutrient. CFD methodologies can be used to determine nutrient profiles and modify the design of existing bioreactors to improve the nutrient transport profile.

Case Study 3

When plant scale designs are evolved is important to understand the hydrodynamics in large scale reactor prior to construction.CFD analysis to predict reactor performance in termsof mixing and gas distribution profiles, power consumption, mass transfer coefficients, oxygen transfer rate and shear rate distribution in the large scale bioreactors have been useful in design analysis and optimization.

Case Study 4

Often there is a need to use the same reactor for different processes or carryout the same processes at different capacity. CFD methods have been used to modify the existing hardware to match the process requirement without hampering the process economics.

For a copy of these case studies please contact us at

Tridiagonal Solutions Inc is an advanced engineering solutions provider with expertise in process performance enhancement and product development solutions for industrial clients worldwide. Their portfolio includes process engineering, CFD, EFD, Discrete Element Modeling services and chemical mixing simulation products . Tridiagonal Solutions caters to the Chemical and Process, Oil and Gas, Consumer goods, Food, Electronics, Power Generation and Healthcare Industries. For more information please visit or call (210) 858-6192.

Tridiagonal Solutions Inc | 12703 Spectrum Drive | San Antonio | TX 78249 | USA

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