As argued in Chap. 1, mathematical models of bioreactor operation will be important tools in the development of bioreactors for solid-state fermentation (SSF) processes. These mathematical models must describe quantitatively the various phenomena within the SSF process that can potentially limit the performance of the bioreactor. One of the key early steps in modeling is to identify what these phenomena are, and to unite them in a qualitative description of the system, at an appropriate level of detail (an idea that will be developed further in Chap. 13). The current chapter provides a basis for this by describing SSF processes qualitatively, from several different perspectives. The current chapter presents:
• An overview of SSF processes.
• The physical structure of SSF systems.
• The phenomena occurring in SSF processes, including phenomena occurring at the microscale (the scale of the individual particle) and phenomena occurring at the macroscale (the scale of the bioreactor, looking at the substrate bed as a whole).
This chapter will make it very clear that the system is highly complex, and it will therefore be obvious that it is only with mathematical models that we can manage to understand the complex system behavior that stems from the combination of microscale and macroscale phenomena. Also, it will be clear that different phenomena will limit the performance of the process at different times during the fermentation, and that the relative importance of the various phenomena will depend on characteristics of the particular organism, substrate, and bioreactor that are used in a particular process. This understanding can lay the foundation for improvements in process performance.
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