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What Is Bioprocess Engineering?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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Biotechnology has been used to process food and medicine for thousands of years. Yeast was often a part of bread making as well as the fermentation of sugar to alcohol. Scientists who work in bioprocess engineering typically combine technology and organic materials in pharmaceutical, food processing, and agricultural industries. Biology can be applied to many industrial processes, such as plastics manufacturing, fuel production, and waste treatment. Genetic engineering as well as nanotechnology is often integrated with bioprocess engineering as well.

Bacteria, enzymes, proteins, and various other biological materials can be processed in manufacturing facilities. Equipment such as tanks, pumps, impellers, and valves is typically used in bioprocess engineering to work with these substances. Organisms such as bacteria can be engineered to produce insulin for people with diabetes, while sugars can be synthesized in making production level quantities of corn syrup or soft drinks, for example.

The efforts of bioprocess engineering have also enabled the development of biodegradable plastics that can also be made out of renewable substances. Enzymes, found naturally in humans and other organisms, can be added to industrial processes and allow these to take place without significant heating or cooling. Oils and fats can be processed in an industrial environment, while researchers can develop reactions with organic materials. Biological waste treatment sometimes helps with the cleansing of water, removal of gas, and clearing of odors.

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Agriculture is another area which bioprocess engineering has had an impact. It is sometimes combined with genetics to produce crops with proteins that help fight off pests. Plants that synthesize proteins suitable for human medicine can be produced as well. Biotechnology has also involved the mapping of the human genome, in addition to the development of computer databases of the protein sequences in Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA).

In addition to gene therapy and vaccine production, nanotechnology, or the manipulation of organic and inorganic compounds at the molecular scale, is often integrated with bioprocess engineering. Such research can help to make use of how cells work, integrating these molecular with the ability to generate electricity or store data, for example. Researchers work to understand how to alter the function of cells to accomplish efficient tasks.

Bioprocess engineering is performed at many laboratories and various universities offer the subject as an area of study. A degree can be earned within the field, and jobs in various disciplines are often available. Chemistry, process engineering, microbiology, and other subjects are usually studied to acquire the knowledge needed to work in a bioprocess engineering laboratory.

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