Food and Beverage Business
Manufacturing

GEA creates a digital replica for testing bioreactors in a virtual environment

GEA creates a digital replica for testing bioreactors in a virtual environment digital twin, GEA, virtual bioreactor testing Food and Beverage Business

GEA has developed a digital twin for virtual testing of bioreactors, allowing for simulation of cell and microorganism behavior prior to construction.

The new technology utilizes computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to simulate cell behavior in bioreactors along oxygen and nutrient supply gradients inside the tanks. This breakthrough allows for the creation of an optimum growth environment for cultured cells, addressing the challenge that these cells behave differently in mass production volumes than at laboratory scale.

According to GEA, the development of higher-performance bioreactors is a priority for the GEA Center of Competence for Bioreactor Technologies due to an impending dramatic capacity shortfall on the bioreactor market. Validation of large-scale fermenters using a digital twin is a key step in ensuring optimal growth conditions and making it possible to take new food processes successfully to scale.

Daniel Grenov, product manager bioreactor technologies at GEA, explained, “A bioreactor is a vessel that has to function like a living body. Inside it, life develops under highly complex conditions. Working on an industrial scale, we have to make living organisms predictable, because we need reliable and replicable performance to go hand in hand with maximum productivity.”

The virtual bioreactor testing is based on computational fluid dynamics (CFD), which models the growth behavior of cells as well as the oxygen and nutrient delivery radii inside the reactor. Experts estimate that, when scaling up bioreactors, uneven distribution of oxygen and nutrients inside the tank often leads to performance losses of up to 30%.

Grenov further emphasized that the risk of uneven distribution of oxygen and nutrients can be banished by using CFD simulation and by calculating kinetic models, both of which are powerful product development tools. Combined with physical test rigs to measure bubble sizes and equipment behavior, GEA can optimize the performance of large-scale bioreactors on the drawing board.

In conclusion, the utilization of a digital twin for virtual testing of bioreactors represents a significant advancement in the field of food manufacturing and has the potential to revolutionize the design and construction of bioreactors for enhanced performance and productivity.

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