Optimization and scale-up of fermentative production of chemicals and biosurfactants

In addition to mild reaction conditions and high specificity, the biotechnological production of platform chemicals and biosurfactants also offers the advantage of using substrates based on renewable raw materials. The variety of products is almost inexhaustible due to the multitude of different microorganisms. Furthermore, products that are difficult to access through chemical synthesis can also be obtained. Our research group has established processes for the bioproduction of organic acids such as malic and itaconic acid as well as furan and other dicarboxylic acids.

Furthermore, we have many years of expertise in the production of microbial biosurfactants. Various fungi of the genera Ustilago sp. and Pseudozyma sp. secrete the biosurfactants mannosylerythritollipide (MEL) and cellobioselipid (CL) naturally, so that these can be extracted from the nutrient medium. Characterizations of various MEL and CL variants showed a broad application potential, e.g. as cleaning agents, in cosmetics or as emulsifiers.

In our laboratories we establish fermentation processes for bacteria and yeast cultivation from laboratory to pilot plant scale. We also use dimension-analytical scale transfer to design fermentations on a pilot scale. These highly scaled processes can be carried out in our own pilot plant at Fraunhofer CBP or at project partners and customers. Whenever possible, we use renewable raw materials such as lignocellulose-based sugar solutions or vegetable oils as substrates in the culture medium.

Range of services

  • Selection and optimization of biocatalysts
  • Development of suitable conversion processes on a laboratory scale
  • Transfer of the conversion process to the pilot plant to m³ scale

In process development we consider all relevant parameters, such as temperature, pO2, OUR, CER and RQ or the composition of the medium and establish perfectly balanced mineral salt media and feeding strategies (repeated-batch, fed-batch or continuous cultivation). Based on a statistical evaluation of all process parameters, we first transfer the optimum process from the shaking flask to the fermenter (scale-over) and then to the pilot plant and pilot scale (scale-up). The purification of the products is also optimized.

Research topics

Biosurfactants – Production and optimization

Long-chain dicarboxylic acids from plant oils

Organic acids

Malic acid, xylonic acid, itaconic acid, furan dicarboxylic acid

Reference projects

Allianz Biotenside – Innovation Alliance Biosurfactants

Duration: January 2018 – December 2020

The aim of the alliance is to economically produce functionally optimized biosurfactants from domestic renewable raw and residual materials using biotechnological methods. The production and purification of such biosurfactants are to be optimized to enable their use in the application areas detergents and cleaning agents, cosmetics, bioremediation, crop protection and food as an alternative to chemically synthesized surfactants.


KomBiChemPro – Fine and platform chemicals from wood through combined chemical-biotechnological processes

Duration: November 2015 – May 2018

The joint KomBiChemPro project aims to combine various development work on the material use of biomass containing lignocellulose in an integrated biorefinery concept. The most important aspect is the manufacture of marketable products through robust processes and efficient process management. The basis of the project is the fractionation of lignocellulose using the organosolv process, which enables the three main components of lignocellulose (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin) to be obtained. The Industrial Biotechnology Group develops fermentation processes for malic and xylonic acid.

BioQED – Quod Erat Demonstrandum: Large scale demonstration for the bio-based bulk chemicals BDO and IA aiming at cost reduction and improved sustainability

Duration: January 2014 – December 2017

In the EU project Bio-QED, Fraunhofer IGB and its branch institute Fraunhofer CBP are conducting research into fermentative production processes to produce basic chemicals and regarding the scale-up of the processes. The Institute is concentrating in particular on the itaconic acid value chain. In 2017, Fraunhofer IGB and CBP held a demonstration workshop on this topic in which project highlights and results were presented.

BioConSepT – Integration of Bio-Conversion and Separation Technology for the production and application of platform chemicals from 2nd generation biomass

Duration: January 2012 – December 2015

BioConSepT focuses on the material use of so-called second generation raw materials such as lignocellulose or oils and fats that cannot be used for food production. Both enzymatic, microbial and chemical reactions are used and, if necessary, combined in the production chains. The introduction of continuous processes, new reactors and selective separation technologies should achieve breakthroughs in cost reduction and sustainability of these processes.

O4S – Organic for surfactants

Duration: January 2012 – December 2014

The "Organic for surfactants (O4S)" project aims to develop a sustainable alternative for surfactants produced chemically and mostly from crude oil.

BioSurf – Biosurfactants from microorganisms

Duration: 2011 – 2014

In the BioSurf project, Fraunhofer IGB and its project partners are developing biosurfactants from microorganisms and enzymatically produced surfactants based on renewable raw materials.

Integrated Bioproduction

Duration: January 2009 – December 2012

The joint project deals with the vision of "integrated joint production based on renewable raw materials" and the continuous development from laboratory to production scale.