Current progress in high cell density yeast bioprocesses for bioethanol production
High capital costs and low reaction rates are major challenges for establishment of fermentation-based production systems in the bioeconomy. Using high cell density cultures is an efficient way to increase the volumetric productivity of fermentation processes, thereby enabling faster and more robust processes and use of smaller reactors. In this review, we summarize recent progress in the application of high cell density yeast bioprocesses for first and second generation bioethanol production. High biomass concentrations obtained by retention of yeast cells in the reactor enables easier cell reuse, simplified product recovery and higher dilution rates in continuous processes. High local cell density cultures, in the form of encapsulated or strongly flocculating yeast, furthermore obtain increased tolerance to convertible fermentation inhibitors and utilize glucose and other sugars simultaneously, thereby overcoming two additional hurdles for second generation bioethanol production. These effects are caused by local concentration gradients due to diffusion limitations and conversion of inhibitors and sugars by the cells, which lead to low local concentrations of inhibitors and glucose. Quorum sensing may also contribute to the increased stress tolerance. Recent developments indicate that high cell density methodology, with emphasis on high local cell density, offers significant advantages for sustainable second generation bioethanol production.