Friday, August 28, 2009


Generally, under most situations nobody would like to call for the consultant. Calling for the support of the Consultant would mean that you have problems in your hands and that your company or the staff is unable to solve it. Either they lack the expertise or that the problems are too complex. As mentioned earlier the charges demanded by the consultants are often not cheap

In a way it is similar to seeing the specialist for your medical problems when your GP is not so sire or confident how to solve the problem. In certain cases where litigation issues are involved each parties involved do not really trust each other and the a number of consultants would be called to give their opinion

In the above case we seem to call the consultant as the last resort in finding solution to the problem. In reality the roles of the consultant are many and could be positively applied at various stages of the project. This will be an asset to the company that employ the consultant because for the relatively small amount of the total cost they can be assured everything would be fine

You can call the services right up from the proposed of the planning stage until the end of the project. Various consultants are needed for different stage of the project

Consultants can give their view even from the point of viability both technical and economical aspects of the project. They can also be asked in choosing the proper tender for the benefit of the company.
They can also be ask to act as independent monitor on the progress and development of the project and many more.

In my opinion when the investments in a fermentation plants is considerable and involve millions of dollars setting a percentage pf the cost for the fees of consultation is really nothing. Do not be penny wise and pound foolish

What is most important is to choose the right consultant. His track record and ability to identify and solve the problems given should be prioritized. He must also submit technical report in detail at scheduled time agreed

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009


It is generally the common aim of most academics or scientists to be regarded as a CONSULTANT. This in itself does not mean other people cannot become a consultant.

If we analyse the term “consultant” it is the person to whom you consult or refer to. This often refers usually where the knowledge of a specialist or an expert is required. Meaning the consultant must himself have extra knowledge or experience than most of the rest in his field so his opinion will make a difference.

Strictly speaking, we can call someone is a consultant if he:

1 Have a greater in depth knowledge of a subject or a field
2 Have many years teaching and research experience in the field
3 Recognised as an authority in the field by his peers
4 Have advanced academic degrees especially at post graduate level
5 Have peer reviewed research papers in eminent journals in that field
6 Have membership of the learned society in his field
7 Have undergone all sorts of experience especially in his field such as the industries

From the above we can see the number of hurdles a consultant need to pass through before one can consider him a true consultant.
Nowadays it seems strange even a young graduate barely with a first degree and a few years experience will unashamedly called himself a consultant. Then there is the joke that a person is a consultant not because of his expertise but more to the fact he could not find a job!

The problem is what you learn in the University is not the same with what you learn in the industries. In the Universities it is a well known fact that two plus two makes four. Not so in industries

So the consultant talks with authority. It is not the amount of words or time he spent talking but the recommendations that he can give or the solutions to the problems. This does not mean that the consultant is always guaranteed right, but chances are he knows his field and will probably giving the best advice or opinion in a particular situation

As being said earlier there is no law saying that prevent anyone from claiming he is a consultant. But the true recognition if he is the true consultant depends on the above criteria.

What is common occurrence here is that the moment a person gets his PhD he is regarded as a consultant. Or if he is the head of the department then he is the consultant.

Anyone who will regard or employ these “consultants” is putting everything at risk and end up with a lousy piece of work. So please choose your consultant properly. Talk with him, interview him of his expertise and track record and then determine yourself if he is truly the consultant you want. Remember you are taking your own risks by taking this people. If anything goes wrong you are left to fend yourself!

It is strange these days that there are so called consultants who are almost willing to work for free. The whole idea is to create his own track record and “impress” the other customers of the future.

The fees of a consultant are definitely high. It reflect the amount of time money energy he has invested to be come a consultant. A good consultant is a professional!

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Thursday, August 20, 2009


That is the trouble with this world. They love hype sounding word, even though it is just describing old and established processes. They just love putting the old wine into new bottle! Yet it is the same old process only being remarketed under new bottles. Guess there are so many fools out there who are mesmerized by these new words and thinking that they are exposed to new technological processes.
Why cant they just settle with the old words! The old words are there even before the term biotechnology was proposed? They could have said it as applied biology, horticulture, agriculture or even food technology.

This crazy turn of event was started in 70s when the real biotechnology was taking its form. Suddenly everyone wants a piece of the pie or its glorious popularity. Everybody want to ride the rich gravy train.

Yes! It is true that if we analyse the term biotechnology it refers generally to the application and manipulation of biology. But in the real context when the term biotechnology was initially introduced it refers to the exploitation of microorganisms using bioreactor technology. It refers to the genetic manipulation of these microorganisms and single cells to produce valuable products.

At no time did it really refer to plant or animal breeding involving crops or farm animals. They already have the field for that plant or animal breeding, important components of agriculture

To make things worst, unpopular subjects such as botany and zoology are given a new finishing and given a new title of “biodiversity”. Wow!!! It is the same old crap of taxonomy…..adoihhhhh!

That is the trouble with most of us. Rather than trying to improve the wine we are so busy trying to improve the bottles. The wine remains as stale as before…hehe. We must stop kidding ourselves and start to face the truth realistically

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Although the structure and function of fermentors are rigid, that doesn’t mean that you cannot modify or adapt your existing fermentors to suit a particular condition. A good fermentation technologist should be able to reconfigure the fermentor system to suit specifically to his needs. If you know or are confident in your fermentation technology you need not always rely on the expensive fermentors. You will choose, retrofit or adaot what ever fermentors you have.

One of the most common methods used by industries, even traditional fermentation industries is to use the concept of staggered fermentation. In traditional fermentation process because of the self protected nature of the fermentation and often the septic fermentation carried out you can substitute for cheaper fermentors.

Aseptic fermentation are for mono culture fermentation and where stringent control is necessary.

One of the techniques in fermentation that is often less understood is the use of staggered fermentation. In staggered fermentation you usually use a number of smaller fermentors and not a single or few large ones.

These fermentors are usually operated in batch mode. These batch mode fermentors are started a few days after one another to give a continuous flow or production. So as one fermentor terminated the previous one in mid fermentation and another one started

There are advantages and disadvantages using staggered fermention. It depends on the situation. It is very suitable in traditional fermentation where the fermentation substrate is seasonal with lows and peaks. During extra harvest the excess substrate could be held in large cold rooms and need not be processed immediately.

Staggered fermentation will be allowed to operate at a steady low flow of substrate

During staggered fermentation the use of minimal labour is possible. There is no need to sustain high labour when there is not enough substrate. The workers are also assured of continuous employment.

To be applicable in staggered fermentation, you have to have a higher number but smaller fermentors. You really need to know the fermentation dynamics when to start the series of fermentation. Thus close monitoring is a must for it to operate well.

Should anything went wrong you will only lose one fermentor’s content 

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The evolution in the design of fermentors over several decades not only reflect the change in understanding of the process of fermentation itself, but also reflect the challenges in the technology of producing new and novel products using the fermentor.

The earliest design of the fermentor as exemplified by the fermentation of penicillin showed how simple the design and function of the fermentor in the forties. Today’s fermentors are more sophisticated as reflected by the various monitoring and control facilities with computer interface for a more efficient fermentation process. In reality, the fermentors have not really underwent a radical design of yester years, only that the monitoring and control get more sophisticated. The basic fermentor hardware still basically remains the same.

However, in the past few years we have seen novel designs in the fermentors it selves. This trend towards a customized and functionally built fermentors are in response to the “new” kind of bioproducts that were not even imagined years ago. The new fermentors of today have to produce such as biopharmaceuticals, enzyme and other biotechnology-derived compounds.

The limitation of specific conditions imposed by such products has resulted in the paradigm shift in the design of fermentors. The engineers who built the fermentors of the past now have to wrestled to find out solutions in the design of new breed of fermentors
As it is now we are beginning to see fermentors whose design is dedicated to a single product, or changed out frequently to process many different ones.


We cannot design the fermentor alone detached from the supporting fermentor system. For a successful fermentation process to occur we must match for compatibility the design of the fermentor with the design of its ancillary support equipment

In the design of modern fermentation system great emphasis are placed upon the role of the fermentor either for multipurpose operation or whether the fermentors will be used for scale ups.

The critical areas that will have to be considered strongly are vessel design, process piping, jacket service piping, agitation and mixing and instrumentation and control.

Thus in planning a custom built fermentor various options must be considered to ensure what ever features are necessary or needs to be added and whether they are beneficial or cost effective. We simply just can’t buy fermentors off the rack! (Although, many do!)

The first consideration in the design of fermentor or retro fitting is to define properly the system that is needed. Are we using bacteria, mammalian cells or fungi? Each type of cell has its own specific requirements or limitations. Even within one particular cell type such as in the case of cell cultivation there is the option of using pneumatically mixed air lift fermentors or by mechanical stirring.


The importance of vessel geometry and volume cannot be understated. While the geometry more refers to the shape of the vessel the volume refer to the capacity of the fermentor. Both geometry and volume of the fermentor will affect the performance of the fermentor

The most popular range of ratios of height-to-tank diameter ratios of 1:1 to 3:1 are common for stirred tanks.

The expected range of the vessel working volume, typically 60-85% of the fermentor total volume. However this must be adjusted with consideration to any expected fed batch additions. It is important that so that the impellers can be spaced appropriately.

The level and type of tank polish is selected based on the acceptability of irregularities in the tank surface. The most popular method of finishing is by mechanical and electropolishing and passivation. The choice depends on the quality requirements of the product

The number, location and type of tank nozzles and ports influences the ability to add materials to the vessel and insert instrumentation probes. It does gives flexibility but at the expense of increase in fabrication costs, setup time and the risk of damage associated with repeated disassembly for cleaning.

There are so many things that enter and leave the fermentor, that in a way the fermentor can’t afford to accommodate all the requirements. It simply does not have the areas to accommodate it. Thus prioritization of usage of ports is essential

Location of the port is important to ensure no damages incurred during insertion and withdrawal.

The weld procedure used to attach these fittings must be reviewed carefully to ensure a sturdy design and to maintain roundness. A compromise has to be achieved between minimizing dead legs and room for sturdy attachment.

The consumables such as gaskets and O rings must be evaluated based on the expected frequency and expense associated with each change. Sometimes it is more efficient, practical and economical to use less expensive, single-use approach.

Factors such as compressibility and memory of the material should be evaluated to ensure that leaks will not develop when the vessel is heated and cooled repeatedly. All materials in product contact must be suitable for sanitary use.

Materials should be selected that are resistant to high temperatures depending upon the specific application.

For improved sterility, steam tracing should be carried out in pipings and equipments. A tube or small-diameter pipe attached to the pipe and carrying a heating medium for the addition of heat all along the process pipe is commonly referred to as “heat tracing.” If the system of heat tracing utilizes steam in the heat delivery process, it is then termed “a steam-tracing system.” Steam tracing requires a highly thermally resistant gasket or O-ring material, due to the constant steam exposure.

The cleanability of the fermentor component is important, thus the number, location and mode of attachment of internals are also important to define. Welded internals improve cleanability by eliminating crevices,

The choice of valves is important. Complete drainability is often a criterion for bottom-valve installation


For very large fermentors there must be allocation on the head plate for cleaning and repair .While this size is sufficient for a person to enter the tank, impellers often need to be designed with a split hub to permit their entry.

Removable headplates introduce the design feature of a headplate O-ring seal. Smaller head plates can be hinged and easily removed by hand; larger ones are often bolted and may go several years without disassembly. Consequently, sealing gaskets and groove locations must seal well for extended periods and be constructed for sanitary, high-temperature service.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009


It is ever doubtful that the development of the fermentation industries could have reached the level of sophistication today if not for
the contribution of stainless steel. Stainless steel is in fact the most popular material used extensively in the fermentation industries. Stainless steel are used not only in the design and building of fermentors but are also used in the various ancillary piping, valves and other equipments such as the blender and stirrer.

Even in dairy processing , sanitary grade stainless steel tanks, pipings and pumps are used to ensure high standards of sanitary cleanliness. This is also the reason why in big restaurants stainless steel kitchen utensils and furniture are made up of stainless steel right up from the sinks to the food warmers

Sanitary cleanliness are possible using stainless steel as its sanitary finish are achievable with electro polishing. Electro polishing is superior to mechanical cleaning as the outer surface of metal is completely removed with the kind of precision that can only be achieved through electrolytic processes. Sub-microscopic peaks and valleys on the surface of the stainless steel are removed, and the stainless steel regenerates a surface layer of passivised chromium oxide to protect it against rust and corrosion.

This is crucial for proper beer fermentation as well as for sanitation standards, for without the removal of these molecular-level gutters and valleys, particles of yeast, sugar and other ingredients would be trapped within the wall of the tank long after scouring. Sugar and yeast would remain and flourish in non-sanitary finishes, growing bacteria and yeast the brewmaster had not counted on. Yeast trapped within brewery tank walls could change the chemistry of the beer’s fermentation, and we don’t want to think about what the bonus bacteria would do.

The downside using stainless steel is the initial cost! But think of the advantages, convenience and lifetime benefits of the stainless steel fermentors!
Stainless steel is essentially a low carbon steel which contains chromium at 10% or more by weight. It is the addition of chromium that gives the steel its unique stainless, corrosion resisting properties.
The chromium content of the steel allows the formation of a tough, adherent, invisible, corrosion-resisting chromium oxide film on the steel surface. If damaged mechanically or chemically, this film is self-healing, provided that oxygen, even in very small amounts, is present. The corrosion resistance and other useful properties of the steel are enhanced by increased chromium content and the addition of other elements such as molybdenum, nickel and nitrogen.
Stainless steel can be divided into four classes. Each is identified by the alloying elements which affect their microstructure and for which each is named.
1)400 Series Martensitic consisting of straight chromium (12 - 18%);

2) 400 Series Ferritic consisting of straight chromium (12 - 18%);

3) 300 Series Austenitic consisting of chromium (17 - 25%), Nickel (8 - 25%);

4) Precipitation Hardening consisting of chromium (12 - 28%), Nickel (4 - 7%);

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To most of us we only see or appreciate the fermentation process qualitatively, just like admiring the beauty of fishes in the aquarium. Such observations don’t tell us more about the fermentation process. May be a whiff of the gas coming out of the fermentor tell us about the presence of alcohol or volatile organic products.

In the fermentation industries such qualitative data are almost of no use. The observation port is of limited use as the data are just visual.

The management of the fermentation industry wants to know much more in depth of the fermentation process. They want reliable numerical data that will allow them to operate the fermentation process in the most efficient and economic way possible.

They need to know the fermentation process in numbers, data and graphs, so that they understand what is going on in the fermentation vat. The data will provide them to make decisions in improving, optimizing or even in trouble shooting the fermentation process. They need to make the decision in comparing and choosing between one substrate and the other for the fermentation process in terms of the yield and productivity,

It is for these reasons that mathematical equations and mathematical models of the process are of utmost importance. It is the tool for decision making and optimized fermentation

It is sad that most people detest the use of equations in fermentation or technology OR that they are unable to exploit fully the data obtained from the equations. Equations in fermentation technology has been most times regarded as an unnecessary evil for you to take if you want to take fermentation technology

For most times the hatred or poor understanding towards the needs of the mathematical equations arises more due to the inability of the teacher to demonstrate is importance and application in fermentation technology. Equations are just regarded more as just a boring mathematical exercise

In any attempt to describe the fermentation technological process will usually involve the understanding of the various data generated by the process

In order to show the relationship between the change in one parameter will only be possible by making sense of the data produced and then to execute the necessary changes

In order to find the optimum conditions for a particular fermentation process we will have to analyze data obtained through various studies and experiments

Only mathematical data will allow us the ability to compare and decide to change the set parameters or not

The trouble is most teachers do not try to stress the importance and application of such equation… maybe because they are just pure mathematicians and do not see the applied implications of the equation

The most important thing, fermentation process is a very complex system which involves the idiosyncrasies of the fermentation microorganisms. It is not that straight forward and direct.

Now let us try to look at the significance of the Monod equation in fermentation technology. Monod equation is in fact one of the most important equation in biology especially in fermentation technology.


We use the Monod equation in calculating the growth of cells or microbes. This equation is then related to the substrate consumption rate equation for the purposes of the fermentation reactor design or analysis The Monod equation is empirical having been developed to describe experimental data; nonetheless, it works fairly well.
The Monod equation is represented as the following:

dX/dt = KmXS/(Ke + S)

where r (or dX/dt) is the rate of microbe growth,
X is the quantity of the microbes,
S is the concentration of the substrates, and
Km and Ke are constants.

What the equation is trying to sum up in the simplest terms is that the number of microorganisms is directly affected by the concentration of substrate over time. And that irrespective there are two constants that occur in the equation. Once we know the value of these constants we can extrapolate a lot of things if we adjust the other values such as time, substrate
We can try to relate the equation to the characteristics of fermentation reaction. The reaction has been determined to require additional supplement for cellular growth in order for the fermentation to proceed significantly. These substances probably vary for fermentation by different microbes.
However we should not see the fermentation process as simple as the Monod equation. There are cautions to be taken in applying it. The Monod equation is not as simple as the various complex parameters and diversity of microbial reactions could affect it.

A more expansive discussion of this material could be found at the GB-Analysts Reports site.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009


The overflow device is an important component in any bioreactor design to ensure that the desired volume of the broth or medium in the working volume remain constant. This is especially required in continuous culture or chemostat and even in activated sludge system. Overflow devices too are required in fed batch culture systems.

Although the primary aim of the overflow device is to maintain the constant volume of the reaction tank, considerations must be taken that the composition of the reaction tank and the wastewater overflow remains homogenous or with the same composition of the media in the reaction tank. In many over flow devices this aspect is not often considered as a very simple attitude is taken just to retain the constant volume in the reaction tank.

In most wastewater bioreactor such as activated sludge and sedimentation tank or even clarifier the over flow device are often too simple in design and function and are located at the interphase of the surface of the water and the air. This would inevitabily resulted in drastic changes in the composition of the wastewater overflows and errors in the sampling procedures.

Having such simple over flow devices in fact help in the enrichment of solids and large particles being retained in the tank.

This characteristic is very crucial if involved in continuous cell cultures as we really need the over flow spent liquour to be truly representative of what really occur in the chemostat.

The overflow device must be located in the truly homogenous zone of the fermentor and where it is continuosly mixed. The design of the overflow device must not in any way changes the physical, chemical and microbiological composition of the sample as it pass through the overflow device

Samplings taken through the overflow device must ensure that dead space samples existing in the overflow device must be completely removed before the real sample taken

The overflow device must be specially designed to ensure aseptic procedures

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Saturday, August 8, 2009


Malaysia is a nice country to live in. It doesn’t cost a lot to get drunk. Nether do you have to patronize pubs to enjoy the expensive alcoholic drinks. (Mind you the tax levied on alcohol is high!).

The simple and alternative way to get drunk is to enjoy the poor man’s Chivaz Regal or Toddy. Its cheap and its powerful! Making Toddy is easy. The problem is getting the sap high up on the palm tree!

Toddy is an alcoholic drink made by fermentation of the coconut or palm sap. The fermentation of the palm sap is carried out by yeasts which occur naturally.

Historically it is generally believed that the knowledge of making Toddy was brought by the South Indian workers. And Toddy is also consumed mainly by Indians in the estate plantations.

Toddy drinking has been blamed for a lot of social problems especially among the poor. It was not uncommon years ago to see drunken Toddy drinkers walking wobbly or sleeping on the road in drunken stupor. However at the same time there are those that will swear by it for its nutritional and health values.

Toddy are commonly sold in Toddy shacks. There are a few Toddy shacks in around Kuala Lumpur where you can get yourself a glass or two of Toddy. In fact just around Brickfields at Jalan Berhala is a licensed Toddy shack. Toddy is often sell by the litre for about RM2, whereas for the same amount beer costs RM12.

The only problem with Toddy drinking it seems it lacks class. It is the poor man’s drink. Public city also do not help with problems of the Toddy drinkers who often go over board. All the drunkards and brawls are too often associated with Toddy

I guess the drunkenness is not because of the significant higher concentration of alcohol as its alcohol content is equivalent to beer. Wine got a much higher alcohol content. It must be the volume of Toddy taken over the long time spent drinking Toddy. After all Toddy is cheap!

Have you tried Toddy with curry???. I heard it is a fantastic combination

Palm sap begins fermenting immediately after collection, due to natural yeasts in the air (often spurred by residual yeast left in the collecting container). Within two hours, fermentation yields an aromatic wine of up to 4% alcohol content, mildly intoxicating and sweet. The wine may be allowed to ferment longer, up to a day, to yield a stronger, more sour and acidic taste containing about 5% alcohol, which some people prefer.

As I see it Toddy will always remain a traditional fermentation which has great potential if the whole process of Toddy fermentation undergoes the modern fermentation technology process. Repackaging it and good marketing would put the modern brewers to shame! ( Eat your heart out Guinness and Carlsberg!)

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