Equation 2 illustrates one of the most important attributes of the chemostat: that the specific growth rate can be controlled by manipulating the dilution rate. Control of the specific growth rate, combined with the ability to maintain a constant, defined cell environment, makes the chemostat a powerful experimental tool with which to investigate the many factors that influence cell growth, metabolism, and product formation. It is as an investigative tool, rather than as a production technology, that continuous culture has found its widest and most successful application.

A second material balance can be written for the growth-limiting substrate (S) using an allocation model for substrate utilization, in which substrate uptake is divided into cell growth, cell maintenance, and product formation components.

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