For many years, engineers have worked to efficiently filter valuable bio-process products on an industrial economic scale. The challenge has been to push rates up without incurring high shear rates and resultant cell lysis, which would cause loss of yield. High shear can destroy delicate and valuable biological materials such as proteins, blood, algae and yeasts, and also brings with it a requirement for higher flow rates, which in turn raises pumping costs.
Inventors at the University of Oxford have developed two very elegant solutions to this dilemma, each of which would allow bio-process engineers to “have their cake and eat it” – i.e. achieve high flux AND low shear. Both technologies are improvements upon the existing practice of using ceramic block or tubular membrane filters, allowing users to obtain breakthrough performance without incurring massive disruption.
The first method is an insert that could be applied to existing tubular membrane filters (TMF) as an add-on. It can be used to achieve excellent mixing at low rates of flow and with a laminar flow pattern. This combination helps to minimise cell damage in the filtration of sensitive materials as high filtration fluxes are obtained at much lower feed flow rates than are currently achieved using existing equipment. The method has been successfully used for ultrafiltration of protein solutions with high flux and negligable fouling; separation of plasma from whole blood by microfiltration and separation of high concentration yeast suspensions. All of these important processes can be achieved more effectively at a much lower cost if the insert method is adopted.
Kim Bruty | alfa
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