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CH2111 Introduction to Bioprocess Engineering

SRM University
Monitoring and Control of Impeller Speed in Stirred
Tank Fermenter
Majority of fermentation processes are aerobic and therefore require the provision of oxygen
The function of the agitation system is to
provide good mixing and thus increase mass transfer rates through the bulk
liquid and bubble boundary layers.
provide the appropriate shear conditions required for the breaking up of
The agitation system consists of the agitator and the baffles.
Baffles - used to break the liquid flow to increase turbulence and mixing efficiency -
Metal strips roughly one-tenth of vessel diameter and attached radially to the wall

1. Basic component includes drive motor, heaters, pump, etc.,
2. Vessels and accessories
3. Peripheral equipment (reagent bottles)
4. Instrumentation and sensors

AGITATION SYSTEM (continued..)

The number of impellers will depend on the height of the liquid in the reactor. Each impeller
will have between 2 and 6 blades.
A single phase (ie., 240 V) agitator drive motor can be used with small reactors. However for
large reactors, a 3 phase motor (ie., 430 V) should be used. The latter will tend to require less
current and therefore generate less heat.
Speed control or speed reduction devices are used to control the agitation speed.
Impellers in agitated tanks are used to mix fluids or slurry in the tank i.e., to combine materials in
the form of solids, liquids and gas.
There are two types of impellers, depending on the flow regime created :
Axial flow impeller
Radial flow impeller

Axial flow impeller Radial flow impeller
RADIAL FLOW IMPELLERS (Eg: Turbine impeller)
Impose shear stress to the fluid, for example, to mix
immiscible liquids and mixing of very viscous fluids.
They discharge liquids at high velocities in the radial direction
causing entrainment of the surrounding fluid, while setting up
two circulation systems.
One of these is above the impeller, the other below.
Practical turbine impellers - approximately 5 meters in diameter (thus multiple tanks or
multiple agitators necessary for larger plant capacities)
The high shear associated with the impeller necessitates a power demand 10-15 times that
of the propeller-type impeller.
Most microbial fermentations use a Rushton turbine impeller.
AXIAL IMPELLERS (Eg: Propellers)
The blades are pitched, generally at a 45 degree angle.
This causes flow to move downward parallel to the shaft, and then up along the wall of the tank.
Installed vertically in a tank, so as to allow for the fluid to circulate in one direction along the
axis, while going in the opposite direction along the walls.
Diameters not greater than 1.5 meters, and are characterized
by their high rotational speed.
Axial flow impellers impose essentially bulk motion, and are
used on homogenization processes, in which increased fluid
volumetric flow rate is important.


The agitation assists oxygen transfer in the following ways:
i. Agitation increases the area available for oxygen transfer by dispersing the air in the culture
fluid in the form of small bubbles.
ii. Agitation delays the escape of air bubbles from the liquid.
iii. Agitation prevents coalescence of air bubbles.
iv. Agitation decreases the thickness of the liquid film at the gas-liquid interface by creating
turbulence in the culture fluid.
The integral part of a high-quality bioreactor is a process controller.
There are three types of sensors used in fermenter.
They are, In-line sensors, On-line sensors and Off-line sensors

In-line sensors
Form integral part of fermenter. The directly measured value controls the process.
Eg. Antifoam probe

On-line sensors
Form integral part of fermenter. The measured value must be entered into
control system to control process. Eg. Ion specific sensors, mass spectrophotometer.

Off-line sensors
Do not form integral part of fermenter. The measured value must be entered into
control system for data collection.
Different methods of monitoring and sensor interfaces with the process.
It may be measured by the amount of power consumed by agitator shaft in stirring the vessel
The power consumption may be assessed
by using a dynamometer,
by using strain gauges attached to the agitator shaft
and by measuring the electrical power consumption of the agitator motor.
Is a device for measuring force, torque, or power
The power produced by a motor is calculated by simultaneously measuring torque
and rotational speed (RPM)
Torsion dynamometers can be used in small-scale applications.
Since the dynamometer has to be placed on the shaft
outside the fermenter the measurement will
include the friction in the bearings.

Strain gauges mounted on the shaft within the fermenter are the most accurate
method of measurement since it is mounted within the fermenter and overcome
frictional problems
Strain gauge is a device used to measure strain on an object.
Most common type of strain gauge consists of an insulating flexible backing which
supports a metallic foil pattern. The gauge is attached to the object by a suitable
adhesive, such as cyanoacrylate.

As the object is deformed, the foil is deformed, causing its electrical resistance to
This resistance change, usually measured using a Wheatstone bridge, is related to the
strain by the quantity known as the gauge factor.
The strain gauge transducer has two parts: the strain gauge and the transducer display and
processing unit.
The strain gauge senses the torque and sends the signal to the transducer signal processing
unit, which in turns connected to the digital display unit. The display unit displays the torque
Watt meter attached to the agitator motor will give fairly good indication of power uptake.
This measuring technique becomes less accurate as there is a decrease in scale to pilot scale and
finally to laboratory fermenters, the main contributing factor being friction in the agitator shaft

Tachometer (RPM gauge)
Instrument measuring the rotation speed of a shaft or disk, as in a motor or other machine.
Usually displays the revolutions per minute (RPM) on a calibrated analogue dial, but digital
displays are increasingly common.
May employ electromagnetic induction, voltage generation, light sensing or magnetic force as
detection mechanisms.
where Q is the volumetric airflow rate
Np is the power number,
P is the external power from the agitator,
is the liquid density,
N is the impeller rotational speed,
D is the impeller diameter.

Relationship Between Power Consumption And Operating Variables In Baffled, Agitated Vessels
Using Technique Of Dimensional Analysis
The power absorption during agitation of non-gassed Newtonian liquids could be represented by a
dimensionless group termed the power number, defined by the expression:

Correlation of gassed power consumption