Single-use systems create a unique set of challenges for process analytical technologies. –Disposable bioreactors are commonly used in the process industry, but what about the sensors? Especially when the reactor is a throw-away item, the equipment has to meet a very specific requirements profile.
The ‘process in a bag’ is a hot technology for the biotech industry, as single-use reactors play an increasingy important role in the production of high-value products. The advantages of pre-sterilized bags and stirred vessels are particularly evident when used with animal cell culture lines. The technology is not limited to batch processing, though: Perfusion modules extend the application range to continuous and fed-batch processing.
Single-use reactors are normally delivered pre-sterilized: The bags or vessels cannot be opened and the entire unit is disposed of at the end of the process. This creates a considerable challenge for process analytical technology, as conventional components, sensors and probes cannot be used for process data acquisition. The sensors have to be placed in or on the culture bag prior to filling or it must be possible to obtain measurements and readings from the outside. All components must be simple and cheap because the sensing elements are thrown away along with the reactor once the cell cultivation process is finished.
Despite the fact that the technology has been the subject of intensive research in recent years and many products have been brought to market, industry insiders see significant potential for further development. Bioprocess analytics and sensors were the center of attraction at 2014’s Biotech symposium organized by Swiss Zürich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) which attracted scientists from the academic and industrial research community. On September 4th - 5th, 2014 in the serene surroundings of Wädenswil on the banks of Lake Zurich, the experts discussed the latest developments in online analytics.
The Interface Makes the Difference
“When you are talking about sensors for bioreactors, it’s all about interfaces,” explained Dr. Casper Demuth who is head of the Center for Measurement and Sensor Technology at ZHAW. “They are what make the difference between the success and failure of a concept.” He hopes that the Wädenswil conference will act as an interface between research and industrial application.
Single-use reactors have the potential to save a lot of money in the biotech industry. The results of a study carried out in 2008 showed that by fully exploiting the advantages of single-use technology, companies can cut electricity usage by 30 %and reduce the consumption of water and cleaning agents by nearly 90 %, compared to conventional techniques.
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