Fermentation of sugar by Saccharomyces cerevisiae, for production of ethanol in an immobilized cell reactor (ICR) was successfully carried out to improve the performance of the fermentation process. The fermentation set-up was comprised of a column packed with beads of immobilized cells. The immobilization of S. cerevisiae was simply performed by the enriched cells cultured media harvested at exponential growth phase. The fixed cell loaded ICR was carried out at initial stage of operation and the cell was entrapped by calcium alginate. The production of ethanol was steady after 24 h of operation. The concentration of ethanol was affected by the media flow rates and residence time distribution from 2 to 7 h. In addition, batch fermentation was carried out with 50 g/l glucose concentration. Subsequently, the ethanol productions and the reactor productivities of batch fermentation and immobilized cells were compared. In batch fermentation, sugar consumption and ethanol production obtained were 99.6% and 12.5% v/v after 27 h while in the ICR, 88.2% and 16.7% v/v were obtained with 6 h retention time. Nearly 5% ethanol production was achieved with high glucose concentration (150 g/l) at 6 h retention time. A yield of 38% was obtained with 150 g/l glucose. The yield was improved approximately 27% on ICR and a 24 h fermentation time was reduced to 7 h. The cell growth rate was based on the Monod rate equation. The kinetic constants (K(s) and mu(m)) of batch fermentation were 2.3 g/l and 0.35 g/lh, respectively. The maximum yield of biomass on substrate (Y(X-S)) and the maximum yield of product on substrate (Y(P-S)) in batch fermentations were 50.8% and 31.2% respectively. Productivity of the ICR were 1.3, 2.3, and 2.8 g/lh for 25, 35, 50 g/l of glucose concentration, respectively. The productivity of ethanol in batch fermentation with 50 g/l glucose was calculated as 0.29 g/lh. Maximum production of ethanol in ICR when compared to batch reactor has shown to increase approximately 10-fold. The performance of the two reactors was compared and a respective rate model was proposed. The present research has shown that high sugar concentration (150 g/l) in the ICR column was successfully converted to ethanol. The achieved results in ICR with high substrate concentration are promising for scale up operation. The proposed model can be used to design a lager scale ICR column for production of high ethanol concentration.
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