Microtechnology in Space Bioreactors
Space biology is a young and rapidly developing discipline comprising basic research and biotechnology. In the next decades it will play a prominent role in the International Space Station (ISS). Therefore, there is an increasing demand for sophisticated instrumentation to satisfy the requirements of the future projects in space biology. Bioreactors will be needed to supply fresh living material (cells and tissues) either to study still obscure basic biological mechanisms or to develop profitable bioprocesses which will take advantage of the peculiar microgravity conditions. Since more than twenty years, the Space Biology Group of the ETHZ is carrying out research projects in space (Space Shuttle/Spacelab, MIR Station, satellites, and sounding rockets) that involve also the development of space-qualified instrumentation. In the last ten years we have developed, in collaboration with Mecanex SA, Nyon, and the Institute of Microtechnology of the University of Neuchatel, a space bioreactor for the continuous culture of yeast cells under controlled conditions. Sensors, pH control, nutrients pump and fluid flowmeter are based on state-of-the-art silicon technology. After two successful space flights, a further improved version is presently prepared for a flight in the year 2000.
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