Reinforcing Existing Strengths

Bilfinger Industrietechnik Salzburg counts on Arc sensors from Hamilton

Bilfinger Industrietechnik Salzburg GmbH, originally having emerged from the Mannesmann history and later part of MCE, has been independent for more than two years now and is a true knowledge carrier in the biotechnology sector – from a historical perspective to the present day. This also applies when it comes to planning, fabricating and installing pipework, systems and equipment in biotechnology, pharmaceutical and fine chemical industries. The systems engineering business unit, based in Salzburg, Austria, with a team of engineers focus on standardized bioreactors with sizes from 15 to 2,000 liters. Planning and fabricating equipment according to precise customer specifications is a specialty as well. Bilfinger Industrietechnik completes its innovative portfolio of solutions for cell and bacteria cultivation with the market launch of the PROQUBE BRC family of bioreactors. The ongoing further development and deployment of related technologies is based on the fact that microorganisms and animal cells require regulated environment and nutrition in bioreactors. This is the only way controlled cell growth and production can be ensured. As an elementary and essential component of a controlled bioreactor and its sensitive contents, powerful sensors continuously monitor the key process parameters such as the pH value and dissolved oxygen (DO). Especially developed management software, highly user-friendly thanks to the design of the management module and interface, also supports the efficient operation of the bioreactor.

Unsuitable sensors can result in failed product yields

Parameters like the pH value, dissolved oxygen and conductivity are essential to maintain the process in the bioreactor and to achieve the goal of controlled product quality. “We have been working with the sensor specialists from Hamilton Bonaduz AG in this field for many years already,” states Dipl.-Ing. Gerald Berghammer, Head of the Biotechnology, Pharmaceuticals and Fine Chemicals business unit at Bilfinger Industrietechnik Salzburg. In addition to exact measurement, the sensors used have to meet the legal requirements regarding possible contamination. Contrary to customers’ expectations, this is often lacking. “There are enough sensors in the market. But many are unsuitable because sterility cannot be ensured,” says Pablo Pino-Grace, Project Engineer and responsible for the bioreactor product group at Bilfinger Industrietechnik. Pino-Grace adds that, with the decision to favor Hamilton and the Arc product family, sensors have been implemented which, amongst others, withstand the frequent sterilization processes as well.

Clark sensors were yesterday – VisiFerm DO Arc is trend-setting

In the past, electrochemical Clark sensors were commonly used for measuring dissolved oxygen in the biotechnology sector. In their measuring chambers, a platinum cathode and a silver anode are usually connected by an electrolyte solution, with the polarization being set so that electrolysis of the electrolyte solution does not occur. Oxygen diffuses through a permeable membrane in the sensor cap into the measuring chamber. The consequential measuring current allows determining the partial pressure of the dissolved oxygen. Even though Clark sensors have been established for a long time, they have significant disadvantages compared to optical sensors: Next to time-consuming polarization, the membrane is mechanically very sensitive and, along with the electrolyte solution, has to be replaced frequently. Furthermore, deposits of oxidized silver metal occur on the anode as a consequence of the measuring process. The deposits have to be removed to ensure the high conductivity of the electrode. Process control is therefore more difficult because a lot of maintenance is required.