Modeling product formation in anaerobic mixed culture fermentations

Jorge Rodríguez, Robbert Kleerebezem, Juan M. Lema, Mark C.M. Van Loosdrecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


The anaerobic conversion of organic matter to fermentation products is an important biotechnological process. The prediction of the fermentation products is until now a complicated issue for mixed cultures. A modeling approach is presented here as an effort to develop a methodology for modeling fermentative mixed culture systems. To illustrate this methodology, a steady-state metabolic model was developed for prediction of product formation in mixed culture fermentations as a function of the environmental conditions. The model predicts product formation from glucose as a function of the hydrogen partial pressure (PH2) reactor pH, and substrate concentration. The model treats the mixed culture as a single virtual microorganism catalyzing the most common fermentative pathways, producing ethanol, acetate, propionate, butyrate, lactate, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and biomass. The product spectrum is obtained by maximizing the biomass growth yield which is limited by catabolic energy production. The optimization is constrained by mass balances and thermodynamics of the bioreactions involved. Energetic implications of concentration gradients across the cytoplasmic membrane are considered and transport processes are associated with metabolic energy exchange to model the pH effect. Preliminary results confirmed qualitatively the anticipated behavior of the system at variable pH and PH2 values. A shift from acetate to butyrate as main product when either PH2 increases and/or pH decreases is predicted as well as ethanol formation at lower pH values. Future work aims at extension of the model and structural validation with experimental data.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)592-606
Number of pages15
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - 20 Feb 2006


  • Anaerobic
  • Carbohydrate
  • Fermentation
  • Mixed culture
  • Modeling


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