Reactor for Incompatible Gases




Microorganisms that produce biofuels may be used to produce a wide array of gasoline alternatives. Higher alcohols, like isobutanol, are good candidates for alternative fuels because their energy density and octane value are similar to gasoline. Isobutanol has a high octane rating, is oxygenated, non-hygroscopic, and non-corrosive. The autotrophic microorganisms that produce isobutanol consume carbon dioxide, which makes isobutanol close to carbon neutral. This may beneficially lower greenhouse gas production.


Description of Technology


Michigan State University’s technology is a catalytic reactor for incompatible, sparingly soluble gaseous reactants. Each gas is separated into a different zone by a catalytically active third zone within the reactor. The two gases, preferably oxygen and hydrogen, are kept on different sides of a catalytically active partition zone into which each gas diffuses. This active zone contains a substance with a microorganism, Ralstonia eutropha, growing within the fibrous network. The incompatible gases are consumed by the bacteria, which keep each gas from contacting the other. Micro-bubbles are used to disperse the gas phase into the liquid phase, increasing the mass transfer rate of the incompatible gases. The solution of gasses and nutrients is pumped through the active zone, and the bacteria use these resources to produce isobutanol.


Key Benefits

  • Safe and effective: Provides a way to carry out a chemical reaction between gaseous reactants where it is undesirable to mix the gases.
  • New method for production: Creates an environment where hydrogen and oxygen can exist within the same reactor, which could be useful for other gases that are not able to exist in the same environment.
  • Cheaper method: Enhanced gas-to-liquid mass transfer is expected to make the reactor more efficient than currently available reactors, thereby lowering the cost of the isobutanol product.
  • Off-the-shelf components: The bioreactor uses parts that are commercially available in the market.



  • Isobutanol production
  • Biofuel production


Patent Status


Patent is pending




Robert Worden, Yangmu "Chloe" Liu


Tech ID




Patent Information:


For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University