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Home » Biology Homework Help » Biotechnology » Downstream Processing
Downstream Processing
The various processes used for the actual recovery of useful products from a fermentation or any other industrial process is called downstream processing. The cost of downstream processing (DSP) is often more than 50% of the manufacturing cost, and there is a product loss at each step of DSP. In addition, the product is either present in the cells, in the medium or both. In either case, the concentration of product is usually low, and it is generally mixed with other molecules from which it has to be separated. Therefore, the DSP should be efficient, involve as few steps as possible (to avoid product loss), and be cost-effective. The various steps in DSP are as follows: (i) separation of particles, (ii) disintegration of cells, (iii) extraction, (iv) concentration, (v) purification and (vi) drying.

Disintegration of cells

Disruption of microbial cells is usually difficult due to their small size, strong cell wall and high osmotic pressure inside cells. Generally, cell disruption is achieved by mechanical means, lysis or drying. The method of cell disruption must not damage the product of interest; the suitability of the methods is usually assessed in terms of recovery of a cellular enzyme activity following cell disruption.

Extraction

The process of recovering a compound or a group of compounds from a mixture or from cells into a solvent phase is called extraction. Extraction usually achieves both separation as well as concentration of the product. It is especially useful for the recovery of lipophilic substances, and in antibiotic recovery, it is often an early step after cell separation.

Concentration

It is generally used in cases of solvent extraction using various devices, e.g. continuous flow evaporators, falling film evaporators, thin film evaporators, centrifugal thin film evaporators and spray-dryers. Efficient arrangements must be made for recovery of the evaporated solvent to reduce costs. For low grade products, often evaporation of the whole broth is undertaken using a spray-drier.

Purification

The final step in the recovery of a product is purification which aims at obtaining the product in highly purified state. The earlier steps will have achieved variable degrees of purification which may determine the degree of resolution necessary during the purification step. The degree of resolution will mainly depend on the similarities to the metabolite of other molecules present in the concentrate, and the degree of purity required in the final product. Purification is achieved by: (i) crystallization and (ii) chromatographic procedures.

Drying

Drying makes the products suitable for handling and storage. It should be accomplished with a minimum rise in temperature due to heat sensitivity of most products. Addition of sugars or other stabilizers improves the heat tolerance of some products like enzymes and pharmaceutical preparations. The most common approaches to drying are as follows: (i) vacuum drying, (ii) spray drying, and (iii) freeze drying.

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