Microbial cells may be used to convert a compound into a structurally related, financially more valuable, compound. Because micro-organisms can behave as chiral catalysts with high positional specificity and stereospecificity, microbial processes are more specific than purely chemical ones and enable the addition, removal or modification of functional groups at specific sites on a complex molecule without the use of chemical protection. The reactions which may be catalysed as illustrated in Table 1.3. The development of the industry prior to 1900 is represented by stage 1, where the products were confined to potable alcohol and vinegar. Although beer was first brewed by the ancient Egyptians, the first true large-scale breweries date from the early 1700s when wooden vats of 1500 barrels capacity were introduced (Corran, 1975). Even some process control was attempted in these early breweries, as indicated by the recorded use of thermometers in 1757 and the development of primitive heat exchangers
Table 1.3. The stages in the chronological development of the fermentation industry
Stage Main Vessels Process Culture Quality Pilot plant Strain products control method control facilities selection
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