A novel method of simulating oxygen mass transfer in two-phase partitioning bioreactors

David R. Nielsen, Andrew J. Daugulis, P. James McLellan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


An empirical correlation, based on conventional forms, has been developed to represent the oxygen mass transfer coefficient as a function of operating conditions and organic fraction in two-phase, aqueous-organic dispersions. Such dispersions are characteristic of two-phase partitioning bioreactors, which have found increasing application for the biodegradation of toxic substrates. In this work, a critical distinction is made between the oxygen mass transfer coefficient, kLa, and the oxygen mass transfer rate. With an increasing organic fraction, the mass transfer coefficient decreases, whereas the oxygen transfer rate is predicted to increase to an optimal value. Use of the correlation assumes that the two-phase dispersion behaves as a single homogeneous phase with physical properties equivalent to the weighted volume-averaged values of the phases. The addition of a second, immiscible liquid phase with a high solubility of oxygen to an aqueous medium increases the oxygen solubility of the system. It is the increase in oxygen solubility that provides the potential for oxygen mass transfer rate enhancement. For the case studied in which n-hexadecane is selected as the second liquid phase, additions of up to 33% organic volume lead to significant increases in oxygen mass transfer rate, with an optimal increase of 58.5% predicted using a 27% organic phase volume. For this system, the predicted oxygen mass transfer enhancements due to organic-phase addition are found to be insensitive to the other operating variables, suggesting that organic-phase addition is always a viable option for oxygen mass transfer rate enhancement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-742
Number of pages8
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 20 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • KLa
  • Oxygen transfer
  • Two-phase partitioning bioreactor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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