28994 - Fundamentals of Biochemical Engineering

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Basic knowledge and ability to model physico–chemical phenomena involved in the biochemical processes at industrial level.

At the end of the course, the student will be able to (i) understand the schematic of a process for the production of a biotechnological product; (ii) apply mass and energy balances to multi-component systems in a single operational unit and in complex systems; (iii) understand transport phenomena occurring within the process.

Course contents

Module 1 (20h)

  1. Peculiar features of biochemical processes. Batch, continuous and fed-batch operations. Steady and non-steady state.
  2. Notions of algebra and calculus.
  3. Fluid dynamics, laminar and turbulent flow, Newton’s law and viscosity, non-newtonian fluids. Bernoulli’s equation, head loss, friction factor.

Module 2 (32h)

  1. Different methods to describe the composition of a mixture.
  2. Mass balance for a non-reacting system in steady and non-steady state.
  3. Phase equilibrium, mass balance for a single equilibrium stage and for counter-current cascade.
  4. Mass balance for reacting systems, reaction rate, examples (first order, Michaelis–Menten, exponential growth, …).
  5. Continuous flow reactors: the ideal stirred tank reactor and the ideal plug flow reactor, tanks in series, mass balance and analysis of isothermal reactors.
  6. Overall mass transfer coefficients.
  7. Mass transfer coefficients, resistance in series concept, reactions between a fluid and a solid, controlling step, aeration of bioreactors.
  8. Diffusion: Fick’s law, diffusion in gas, liquid and solids. Steady state and transient diffusion in plane, cylinder, spheres, some applications: barrier polymers, membranes.
  9. Mass transfer in laminar and turbulent flow: film theory, dimensional analysis, empirical correlations.
  10. Heat transfer mechanisms, steady state conduction and convection. Transient heat transfer, analogies among mass and heat transfer.
  11. Energy balance. Some remarks on the first principle of thermodynamics. Energy balance for open systems, applications.


Suggested readings:

  1. Gostoli C., Trasporto di materia con elementi di reattoristica chimica e biochimca, Pitagora editrice, Bologna, 2011.
  2. Cussler E.L., Diffusion, Mass Transfer in Fluid System, Cambridge University Press, 1984.
  3. R.G. Harrison, P. Todd, S.R. Rudge, D. P. Petrides, Bioseparations Science and Engineering, Oxford Univ. Press, 2003.
  4. Y.A. Çengel, Termodinamica e trasmissione del calore, McGraw-Hill, 3a Ed., Milano (2009).

Teaching methods

Class lectures, homework problems, discussion of problem solutions.

Assessment methods

The exam includes two parts.

The first part is written and is composed by:

  • a quiz of 10 questions to be answered in 20 minutes, with a total score of 5 points;
  • a problem to be solved in 1 hour, with a total score of 10 points.

The second part is oral. It can be taken only after the written part has being passed with at least 9 points. The maximum score for the oral part is 15 points.

The final score will be calculated as the sum of the previous sub-scores.

Teaching tools

Presentation slides that will be made available to the students.

Office hours

See the website of Camilla Luni

See the website of Cristiana Boi