Demonstration of In Situ Product Recovery (ISPR) to improve the productivity in fermentation processes

Scope of the project

Industrial biotechnology plays a crucial role in the development of sustainable and cost effective production processes for biobased chemicals. These processes typically consist of two distinct unit operations: fermentation, followed by purification of the compound of interest from the fermentation broth. Product recovery and purification (also called downstream processing or DSP) are important cost factors, responsible for up to 80% of the total production cost. Reducing DSP cost is therefore a key success factor to improve the overall economics of biobased processes.

A recent approach is to integrate the DSP within the fermentation process. Fermentative production of biobased chemicals often faces low productivity or low energy efficiency due to inhibitory effects of primary or secondary metabolites accumulating in the system. When the inhibitory product is constantly removed by using an integrated DSP, the repressive compound is kept below its inhibitory concentration thus boosting productivity. This technology is called “in situ product recovery” or ISPR.

VITO developed an ISPR system at bench scale: They were able to intensify butanol production by coupling pervaporation as ISPR technique to an Aceton-Butanol-Ethanol fermentation with the organism Clostridium acetobutylicum. The product and energy efficiency, as well as the stability of the process
will be demonstrated at pilot scale by Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant. For this purpose, a two-stage ABE fermentation (50 and 150 l scale) coupled to pervaporation will run for a number of weeks.


Process intensification and improvement of productivity of fermentation processes for the production of:

  • Volatile biobased chemicals such as butanol, ethanol, acetone, isobutene,…
  • Bioflavours and biofragrances
  • Biosolvents