Fermentation process control is currently limited by its inability to measure parameters such as substrate, product, and biomass concentrations rapidly for consistent on-line feedback. Physical and chemical parameters, such as temperature and pH, currently can be obtained on-line using appropriate sensors. However, to obtain information on the concentration of the substrate, product, and biomass, samples must be taken off-line for measurement. With the use of spectroscopic techniques, real-time monitoring of process constituents such as product and substrate is possible. Spectroscopic techniques are rapid and nondestructive, require minimal or no sample preparation, and can be used to simultaneously assess several constituents in complex matrices. The production of ethanol is the largest fermentation process in terms of production volume and economic value as a result of its prominence in the food, agricultural, and fuel industries. This study attempts to develop an on-line ethanol fermentation monitoring technique using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy with a flow-through ATR capability. Models developed using multivariate statistics, employed to obtain on-line FTIR measurements, were successfully validated by off-line HPLC analysis and spectrophotometry data. Standard errors of prediction (SEP) values of 0.985 g/L (R2 = 0.996), 1.386 g/L (R2 = 0.998), and 0.546 (R2 = 0.972) were obtained for ethanol, glucose, and OD, respectively. This work demonstrates that FTIR spectroscopy could be used for rapid on-line monitoring of fermentation.
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