Oxygen Requirements

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It is sometimes forgotten that oxygen, although not added to an initial medium as such, is nevertheless a very important component of the medium in many processes, and its availability can be extremely important in controlling growth rate and metabolite production. This will be discussed in detail in Chapter 9.

The medium may influence the oxygen availability in a number of ways including the following:

1. Fast metabolism. The culture may become oxygen limited because sufficient oxygen cannot be made available in the fermenter if certain substrates, such as rapidly metabolized sugars which lead to a high oxygen demand, are available in high concentrations.

2. Rheology. The individual components of the medium can influence the viscosity of the final medium and its subsequent behaviour with respect to aeration and agitation.

3. Antifoams. Many of the antifoams in use will act as surface active agents and reduce the oxygen transfer rate. This topic will be considered in a later section of this chapter.

Fast metabolism

Nutritional factors can alter the oxygen demand of the culture. Penicillium chrysogenum will utilize glucose more rapidly than lactose or sucrose, and it therefore has a higher specific oxygen uptake rate when glucose is the main carbon source (Johnson, 1946). Therefore, when there is the possibility of oxygen limitation due to fast metabolism, it may be overcome by reducing the initial concentration of key substrates in the medium and adding additional quantities of these substrates as a continuous or semi-continuous feed during the fermentation (see Tables 4.1. and 4.15; Chapters 2 and 9). It can also be overcome by changing the composition of the medium, incorporating higher carbohydrates (lactose, starch, etc.) and proteins which are not very rapidly metabolized and do not support such a large specific oxygen uptake rate.


Deindoerfer and West (1960) reported that there can be considerable variation in the viscosity of compounds that may be included in fermentation media.

Table 4.15. Some processes using batch feed or continuous feed or in which they have been tried





Molasses, nitrogen sources, P and Mg

Harrison (1971)

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