Two-phase partitioning bioreactors in environmental biotechnology

  • Guillermo Quijano
  • María Hernandez
  • Frédéric Thalasso
  • Raúl MuñozEmail author
  • Santiago Villaverde


Two-phase partitioning bioreactors (TPPBs) in environmental biotechnology are based on the addition of a non-aqueous phase (NAP) into a biological process in order to overcome both mass-transfer limitations from the gas to aqueous phase and pollutant-mediated inhibitions. Despite constituting a robust and reliable technology in terms of pollutant biodegradation rates and process stability in wastewater, soil, and gas treatment applications, this superior performance only applies for a restricted number of pollutants or contamination events. Severe limitations such as high energy requirements, high costs of some NAPs, foaming, or pollutant sequestration challenge the full-scale application of this technology. The introduction of solid NAPs into this research field has opened a promising pathway for the future development of TPPBs. Finally, this work reviews fundamental aspects of NAP selection and mass transfer and identifies the niches for future research: low energy-demand bioreactor designs, experimental determination of partial mass transfers, and solid NAP tailoring.


Mass transfer Soil treatment Toxic pollutants Two-phase partitioning bioreactors Volatile organic contaminants 



The authors faithfully thank the financial support received from the Mexican Council of Science and Technology (Guillermo Quijano grant #164283). The Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (RYC-2007-01667, PPQ2006-08230, CONSOLIDER- CSD 2007-00055) and the Regional Government of Castilla y Leon (Ref. GR76) are also gratefully acknowledged. Katrina Penman is gratefully acknowledged for her grammatical corrections.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guillermo Quijano
    • 1
    • 2
  • María Hernandez
    • 1
  • Frédéric Thalasso
    • 2
  • Raúl Muñoz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Santiago Villaverde
    • 1
  1. 1.Departmento de Ingeniería Química y Tecnología del Medio AmbienteUniversidad de ValladolidValladolidSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Biotecnología y Bioingeniería, Centro de Investigación y de EstudiosAvanzados del IPN (Cinvestav), ApdoMexicoMexico

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