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Biotechnology: technology based on biology ad involves the exploitation of living organisms/biological processes to improve agriculture, animal husbandry, food science, medicine an industry.

  • Food production
    • Cheese/yoghurt
    • Mycoprotien (Quorn)
    • Soya sauce
  • Drugs/Pharmaceuticals
    • Penicillin
    • Insulin
  • Enzymes/Chemicals
    • Pectinase
    • Calcium citrate
    • Biogas
  • Biomedication of waste products
    • Waste water treatment
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Micro-organisms in Biotech

Many processes involve bacteria and fungi because they:

  • grow rapidly in favourable conditions
  • often produce chemicals into the surrounding medium which are (fairly) easily harvested
  • can be genetically engineered to produce specific products
  • grow well at relatively low temperatures (lower than chemical engineering)
  • not dependant on climate
  • tend to generate pure products
  • can often be grown using nutrient materials which are waste products to humans
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Growth Curve Graph


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Growth Curve Explaination

The graph shows a standard growth curve where the organisms have been placed in a closed system.  

Lag phase: Organisms are adjusting to the surrounding conditions.

Log (exponential) Phase: Population doubles each generation.

Stationary Phase: Nutrient levels decrease and waste products build up.  Individual orgnisms die at the same rate at which new organisms are being produced.  NOTE: this would be the carying capacity of a habitat in an open system.

Decline/Death Phase: Death rate increases above reproduction rate.  In a closed system, eventually all organisms will die.

Fermentation: the culturing of microorganisms an/aerobically in fermentation tanks.  

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Metabolism and Metabolites

Metabolism: the sum total of all chemical reactions that occur in an organism.

Primary and Secondary Metabolites

Primary Metabolites

  • Substances produces as part of its notmal growth.
  • Includes amino acids, proteins, enzymes, nucleic acids, ethanol and lactate.
  • Matches the growth in population of the orgamism.

Secondary Metabolites

  • Substanced produced by an organism that are not part of its normal growth.
  • Antibiotic chemicals are almost all secondary metabolites.
  • production begins after the main growth period of the organisms and so does not match the growth in population.
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Commercial Applicatons

Industrial Scale Fermenters

Factors to be changed are

  • Temperature
  • Type and addition of nutrient
  • Oxygen concentration
  • pH

Batch and Continuous Culture

  • Batch - microorganisms are grown for a specific period of time, no extra nutrients added, eg Penicillin.
  • Continuous - nutrients are added at regular intervals and products are removed.


  • Unwanted microorganisms are called contaminants.
  • Aespsis: ensuring contamination does not occur via the use of aseptic technique.
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