Carbohydrates

It is common practice to use carbohydrates as the carbon source in microbial fermentation processes. The most widely available carbohydrate is starch obtained from maize grain. It is also obtained from other cereals, potatoes and cassava. Analysis data for these substrates can be obtained from Atkinson and Mavituna (1991a). Maize and other cereals may also be used directly in a partially ground state, e.g. maize chips. Starch may also be readily hydrolysed by dilute acids and enzymes to give a variety of glucose preparations (solids and syrups). Hydrolysed cassava starch is used as a major carbon source for glutamic acid production in Japan (Minoda, 1986). Syrups produced by acid hydrolysis may also contain toxic products which may make them unsuitable for particular processes.

Barley grains may be partially germinated and heat treated to give the material known as malt, which contains a variety of sugars besides starch (Table 4.5). Malt is the main substrate for brewing beer and lager in many countries. Malt extracts may also be prepared from malted grain.

Sucrose is obtained from sugar cane and sugar beet. It is commonly used in fermentation media in a very impure form as beet or cane molasses (Table 4.6), which are the residues left after crystallization of sugar solutions in sugar refining. Molasses is used in the production of high-volume/low-value products such as ethanol, SCP, organic and amino acids and some microbial gums. In 1980, 300,000 tons of cane molasses were used for amino acid production in Japan (Minoda, 1986). Molasses or sucrose also may be used for production of higher value/low-bulk products such as antibiotics, speciality enzymes, vaccines and fine chemi-

Table 4.5. Carbohydrate composition of barley malt (Harris, 1962) (expressed as % dry weight of total)

Starch 58-60

Sucrose 3-5

Reducing sugars 3-4

Other sugars 2

Hemicellulose 6-8

Cellulose 5

cals (Coombs, 1987). The cost of molasses will be very competitive when compared with pure carbohydrates. However, molasses contains many impurities and molasses-based fermentations will often need a more expensive and complicated extraction/purification stage to remove the impurities and effluent treatment will be more expensive because of the unutilized waste materials which are still present. Some new processes may require critical evaluation before the final decision is made to use molasses as the main carbon substrate.

The use of lactose and crude lactose (milk whey powder) in media formulations is now extremely limited since the introduction of continuous-feeding processes utilizing glucose, discussed in a later section of this chapter.

Corn steep liquor (Table 4.7) is a by-product after starch extraction from maize. Although primarily used as a nitrogen source, it does contain lactic acid, small amounts of reducing sugars and complex polysaccharides. Certain other materials of plant origin, usually included as nitrogen sources, such as soyabean meal and Pharmamedia, contain small but significant amounts of carbohydrate.

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