A versatile miniature bioreactor and its application to bioelectrochemistry studies

Biosens Bioelectron. 2010 Aug 15;25(12):2559-65. doi: 10.1016/j.bios.2010.04.014. Epub 2010 Apr 21.


Often, reproducible investigations on bio-microsystems essentially require a flexible but well-defined experimental setup, which in its features corresponds to a bioreactor. We therefore developed a miniature bioreactor with a volume in the range of a few millilitre that is assembled by alternate stacking of individual polycarbonate elements and silicone gaskets. All the necessary supply pipes are incorporated as bore holes or cavities within the individual elements. Their combination allows for a bioreactor assembly that is easily adaptable in size and functionality to experimental demands. It allows for controlling oxygen transfer as well as the monitoring of dissolved oxygen concentration and pH-value. The system provides access for media exchange or sterile sampling. A mass transfer coefficient for oxygen (k(L)a) of 4.3x10(-3) s(-1) at a flow rate of only 15 ml min(-1) and a mixing time of 1.5s at a flow rate of 11 ml min(-1) were observed for the modular bioreactor. Single reactor chambers can be interconnected via ion-conductive membranes to form a two-chamber test setup for investigations on electrochemical systems such as fuel cells or sensors. The versatile applicability of this modular and flexible bioreactor was demonstrated by recording a growth curve of Escherichia coli (including monitoring of pH and oxygen) saturation, and also as by two bioelectrochemical experiments. In the first electrochemical experiment the use of the bioreactor enabled a direct comparison of electrode materials for a laccase-catalyzed oxygen reduction electrode. In a second experiment, the bioreactor was utilized to characterize the influence of outer membrane cytochromes on the performance of Shewanella oneidensis in a microbial fuel cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bioelectric Energy Sources
  • Bioreactors*
  • Biosensing Techniques
  • Cytochromes / metabolism
  • Electrochemical Techniques
  • Electron Transport
  • Equipment Design
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Laccase / metabolism
  • Miniaturization
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Shewanella / metabolism


  • Cytochromes
  • Laccase
  • Oxygen