Computational and experimental investigation of flow and fluid mixing in the roller bottle bioreactor

D. R. Unger, F. J. Muzzio, J. G. Aunins, R. Singhvi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The fully three-dimensional velocity field in a roller bottle bioreactor is simulated for two systems (creeping flow and inertial flow conditions) using a control volume-finite element method, and validated experimentally using particle imaging velocimetry. The velocity fields and flow patterns are described in detail using velocity contour plots and tracer particle pathline computations. Bulk fluid mixing in the roller bottle is then examined using a Computational fluid tracer program and flow visualization experiments. It is shown that the velocity fields and flow patterns are substantially different for each of these flow cases. For creeping flow conditions the flow streamlines consist of symmetric, closed three-dimensional loops; and for inertial flow conditions, streamlines consist of asymmetric toroidal surfaces. Fluid tracers remain trapped on these streamlines and are unable to contact other regions of the flow domain. As a result, fluid mixing is greatly hindered, especially in the axial direction. The lack of efficient axial mixing is verified computationally and experimentally. Such mixing limitations, however, are readily overcome by introducing a small-amplitude vertical rocking motion that disrupts both symmetry and recirculation, leading to much faster and complete axial mixing. The frequency of such motion is shown to have a significant effect on mixing rate, which is a critical parameter in the overall performance of roller bottles. (C) 2000 John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-130
Number of pages14
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 20 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


  • Bioreactor
  • CFD
  • Mixing
  • Roller bottle


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