Previous studies have shown that pretreatment of corn slurries using ultrasound improves starch release and ethanol yield during biofuel production. However, studies on its effects on the mass transfer of substrates and products during fermentation have shown that it can have both beneficial and inhibitory effects. In this study, the effects of ultrasound on mass transfer limitations during fermentation were examined. Calculation of the external and intraparticle observable moduli under a range of conditions indicate that no external or intraparticle mass transfer limitations should exist for the mass transfer of glucose, ethanol, or carbon dioxide. Fermentations of glucose to ethanol using Saccharomyces cerevisiae
were conducted at different ultrasound intensities to examine its effects on glucose uptake, ethanol production, and yeast population and viability. Four treatments were compared: direct ultrasound at intensities of 23 and 32 W/L, indirect ultrasound (1.4 W/L), and no-ultrasound. Direct and indirect ultrasound had negative effects on yeast performance and viability, and reduced the rates of glucose uptake and ethanol production. These results indicate that ultrasound during fermentation, at the levels applied, is inhibitory and not expected to improve mass transfer limitations.
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