BioTech Automation Automation for the biological transformation PhotoBionicCell – The photo-bioreactor
Prologue A new dynamism PhotoBionicCell – The photo-bioreactor What happens in the PhotoBionicCell? Why photosynthesis, and why algae for the bioreactor? What know-how does the PhotoBionicCell conceal? Can natural photosynthesis be improved? Process automation LifeTech Didactic Biological, not chemical Artificial photosynthesis Facts and figures Epilogue Into the ecological age 4 8 10 12 18 22 22 23 23 24 24 28
Challenge Climate and resource protection Challenge Population growth and demographic change Automation Digitalisation Pneumatic Electric Process Biologisation Industrial Intelligence Technology Equator Robotic LifeTech Learn Structural change Sustainability Deglobalisation 3 2 The “technology equator” of Festo: in no other age in the history of the earth has humankind had a greater influence on the ecosystem of our planet. However, a sustainable future in which the earth’s resources are conserved and carbon dioxide emissions reduced can only be achieved through a well-balanced, holistic circular economy. Festo is prepared for this dynamic industrial cycle – with technology, innovation, education, knowledge and responsibility. “The smallest of small worlds, the intracellular world, is yet to be fully revealed to the human eye.” Raoul Heinrich Francé
5 4 The world is changing as never before. More than ever, the present is revealing just how fragile our planet’s ecosystem is. The global population is growing, natural cycles have been broken and the consequences of climate change are being felt. In no other era in the earth’s history have humans had such a great impact on our planet. Nevertheless, the global community wants each and every individual to be able to live in a healthy environment, with intact flora and fauna – both now and in the future. A future worth living in can only be attained if humankind and the animal and plant kingdoms live in harmonious balance – just as nature has been teaching us through millions of years of evolution. This must not be an unattainable utopia; rather, it must be the goal of responsible provision of life’s necessities. The ambition of Festo is to make a decisive contribution to improving quality of life for the current and future generations around the globe. Innovative technologies and constant learning from nature will literally be essential for survival. If ecology, economy and social responsibility work together intelligently, a sustainable future will be possible in which the earth’s resources are conserved and carbon dioxide emissions reduced. This requires us to be guided by nature’s example: nature holds a treasure trove of biological knowledge, only a minute fraction of which has been discovered to date. For more than thirty years, the learning company Festo has seen biology as a source of inspiration and a teacher. Over the years, the bionics experts have created and developed a multitude of technological innovations. Bionic thinking is also creating a new kind of methodical competence that gives rise to previously unimaginable solution spaces. The eternal cycle of life – almost everyone is familiar with this phrase. We are also familiar with the blood circulation in our bodies or the water cycle of the earth. Can this impressive principle created by nature be transferred to our global economic system? Most definitely! If we can manage to transform our current economic system into a well-balanced circular economy, innovation spaces will emerge that will be of benefit both to people and to the environment. “All things change; nothing is lost,” wrote the Roman poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses, presumably shortly after the beginning of our common era. A circular economy also means carbon dioxide-neutral production, with con- sumption of resources reduced to an absolute minimum: a dynamic industrial cycle that is holistic and balanced. The idea behind this is to cultivate organic matter in an energy-efficient way as a basic biological substance so that raw materials can be extracted from it and processed into products. These should ultimately be able to be returned to the natural cycle – and be “transformed” into water, earth, air and energy in accordance with the pre- Socratic doctrine of the four classical elements. In today’s language: the production of the future is to be organised in such a way that the raw materials used will be completely recovered in closed cycles, from the design stage to dismantling into individual components. An example of industrial biologisation is the new photo-bioreactor by the name of PhotoBionicCell. With expertise, know-how and components from Festo, biomass from various species of algae can be cultivated in a closed cycle – in a highly efficient, resource-saving automated process. In photo- synthesis, the vegetable algae cells convert daylight and carbon dioxide from the ambient air into chemical energy carriers and organic materials. The resulting substances can then be used as basic materials for pharmaceuticals, packaging, food, fuel or cosmetics and can finally be recycled in a climate- neutral way: unlike petroleum-based products, they only release the carbon dioxide that was previously extracted from the air and bound in the bio- reactor. Living cells are thus set to become the factory of the future in the photo- bioreactor. “This offers an exquisitely convenient definition of the cell: it is the technical form of life,” said the botanist, microbiologist and natural philosopher Raoul Heinrich Francé (1874 – 1943), who discovered the so- called edaphon – the totality of microorganisms living in the soil. Alluding to the photosynthetic capabilities of plant cells, this pioneer of modern biotechnology described the plant kingdom as the inventor of practically all technical developments. We are now in a position to harness this potential by merging the biological and physical worlds in productive processes. Digitalisation, artificial intelligence and quantum sensor technology are indispensable companions of the biological transformation. With these methods, data from bioreactors can be optimised within a very short time. Only when the automated cultivation of biomass has proved reliable, cost-efficient and of consistent quality can its bioproduction become marketable on a large scale and achieve the desired environmental effects. As an open learning company with expertise in bionics, Festo is able to master this complexity and set new forms of industrial production in motion. The company’s goal is to increase the productivity of its worldwide customers and partners, also in the pioneering field of biologisation. A new dynamism is in the air – for which Festo is prepared with technology, innovation, education, knowledge and responsibility, and on the basis of which we intend to constantly further develop. Prologue A new dynamism In balance Into the future with sustainability Thinking in cycles Water, earth, air and energy A bioreactor by the name of PhotoBionicCell Cells as the factory of the future On a large scale
7 6 Global carbon dioxide turnover – Around 20 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are constantly transformed in the earth’s natural cycle. – An additional 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually are released from fossil fuels as a result of human activity. How much carbon dioxide is bound per year? – One square metre of forest binds one to two kilograms of carbon dioxide. 1 – One square metre of maize binds one to three kilograms of carbon dioxide. – One square metre of algae without automation technology binds around ten kilograms of carbon dioxide. – One square metre of algae in the photo-bioreactor from Festo binds over 100 kilograms of carbon dioxide. 2 How much biomass is produced? – One hectare of forest yields around twelve tonnes of biomass per year. 1 – One hectare of maize yields around nine tonnes of biomass per year. – One hectare of algae in the photo-bioreactor from Festo could theoretically yield around 70 tonnes of biomass per year. 2 How much water is required? – One kilogram of wood requires around 1,800 litres of water. 1 – One kilogram of maize requires around 900 litres of water. – One kilogram of algae in the circulation system of a photo- bioreactor requires around ten litres of water. 1 regional differences 2 converted equivalent value
01 – CO2 is bound 02 – Biomass is produced 03 – Biological recyclables are developed 04 – Sustainable packaging, cosmetics and medicines are produced 9 8 The high-tech bioreactor from Festo is an optimised and automated system based on the circular economy that can cultivate algae around the clock and control their growth. In their chloroplasts, the cells of the algae use photo- synthesis to convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and chemical energy carriers, along with other valuable organic substances. Technical innovations ensure that the algae always find a suitable environment for reproduction. They are thus able to produce valuable basic materials for industrial value-added processes. Depending on the nutrients supplied to the algae biomass, its metabolic processes give rise to waste products – such as fatty acids, colour pigments and surfactants, which serve as starting materials for the production of medicines, food, plastics, cosmetics and fuels. These bio-based end products can ultimately be biodegraded and recycled in a climate-neutral manner as part of a holistic circular economy, since the carbon dioxide needed for the algae’s photosynthesis is derived from the ambient air. Thanks to state-of-the-art technologies, expertise and components from Festo, the cultivation of biomass in this automated, closed-cycle process saves resources and is energy-efficient. The know-how gained from this biological process can also be applied to the cultivation of other microorganisms: certain bacteria, fungi or other cells can replace further important basic materials which currently still make use of the fossil resource petroleum. Festo sees organic cells as the factories of the future – they hold enormous potential. Their marketable, large-scale cultivation will be crucial when it comes to effectively combating climate change. In the future production worlds of a sustainable circular economy modelled on nature, biological and techni- cal processes will therefore merge. PhotoBionicCell – The photo-bioreactor What happens in the PhotoBionicCell? The aim is to achieve a sustainable circular economy in which the raw materials used are fully recycled – from the design stage to dismantling into individual components. Festo would like to make a decisive contribution to improving quality of life for current and future generations.
11 10 Sunlight is the power source of photosynthesis. The chloroplasts of the plant cells derive energy during the day from the sun’s rays and temporarily store it in chemical form. Water and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are then used to form energy-rich sugar molecules in the chloroplasts. Oxygen is released into the environment during this metabolic process; this gas, which is vital for humans and animals, is a waste product of photosynthesis. In simplified terms, sunlight is transformed into biomass through photosynthesis. These accomplishments of the plant kingdom enable us to breathe oxygen and digest food. When it comes to photosynthesis, it is worth taking a closer look at algae, some of which are vegetable and some bacterial. Around 2.5 billion years ago, microscopically small single-celled cyanobacteria emerged in the primordial ocean; these ancestors of plants as we know them were the first to carry out photosynthesis. Such microalgae process carbon dioxide from the ambient air more efficiently than plants: while a square metre of forest vegetation binds about one kilogram of carbon dioxide annually, an optimised bioreactor with an equivalent amount of algae as biomass binds some 100 kilograms of this greenhouse gas. Automated breeding of these bacterial cultures can take place 365 days a year, as it is dependent neither on the seasons nor on the time of day. A further advantage is that cultivation of algae in the bioreactor does not compete with the food industry. Furthermore, algae cells can produce a variety of initial material for bioproduction in a very wide range of industries. They thus have the potential to replace petroleum-based production chains in the medium to long term, thereby making a decisive contribution to an economical climate neutrality. Around 20 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are constantly processed in the earth’s natural cycle. Every single year, however, an additional 36 billion tonnes of this climate-damaging gas are released by humans from fossil fuels such as petroleum, lignite and hard coal – an amount that can be signi- ficantly reduced. The principle of the photo-bioreactor from Festo is based on the following basic considerations: How can biological material be cultivated with as little consumption of water, energy, electricity and gas as possible? How can this be achieved in a climate-neutral way? What substances can be extracted in what form from the biomass and then serve as high-quality raw materials for other applications? In the PhotoBionicCell, this is all made possible by the automated cultivation of various species of algae: the carbon dioxide needed for the photosynthesis of the algae cells is largely derived from the atmo- sphere, as is the sunlight that is freely available during daylight hours. Thanks to its closed-circuit operation, the PhotoBionicCell consumes only a bare minimum of water and takes up very little space. The intelligent interplay of innovative technologies enables continuous monitoring and an optimal supply of the algae, so that they can very efficiently produce a wide range of valuable basic substances. PhotoBionicCell – The photo-bioreactor Why photosynthesis, and why algae for the bioreactor? No life without photosynthesis Algae are efficient multitalents Circular economy in the PhotoBionicCell
13 12 There is life within the PhotoBionicCell bioreactor from Festo. Microorganisms produce the desired biomass with maximum efficiency. To ensure that this contributes to a sustainable circular economy, the bioreactor is equipped with a host of future-oriented technologies and technical refinements. The method used by the specialists to automate the system with living cells is innovative and suitable for industrial application. In many of today’s reactors, the growth of microorganisms still entails laborious, error-prone manual sampling. In the new photo-bioreactor, the intelligent combination of sensors, software, components and technology ensures automated 24-hour monitoring and control for maximum yield in production. The developments involving the high-tech bioreactor are being brought about by an interdisciplinary team, drawing on knowledge from the fields of bionics, biology, automation technology and process engineering. For many decades, Festo as an open learning company has been following nature’s example in launching a large number of bionic projects, products and Future Concepts. The PhotoBionicCell with its biological cultures likewise stands for innovative learning paths: the experts are gaining more and more insights into how microorganisms can be cultivated in an energy-efficient and resource-saving way within a compact space. Their goal is to establish decentralised bioproduction locations that cultivate biomass on a large scale. The cell itself is set to become the factory of the future, so to speak. The algae cultures inside the PhotoBionicCell glow in various shades of green. Its body of acrylic glass with a capacity of 15 litres is supported by a sturdy lightweight structure. A further lightweight element hovers over it like a breathing sail: this comprises surface collectors, which exchange light, heat and material with the surroundings via transparent tubes. Many of the structures used for the bioreactor are 3D-printed; recyclable biomaterials are suitable for this process. The system is also equipped with individual components that work together in a coordinated manner – miniature pumps, valves, filters, sensors, controllers and much more. The automation system with its electrics and electronics is housed both within the structure of the exhibit and in its base. Movement takes place in a closed cycle inside the PhotoBionicCell. The green algae liquid is pumped upwards into the surface collectors, where it is distributed in a uniform flow and finally descends again. In this circulation, the naturally available resources of sunlight and carbon dioxide are absorbed from the surroundings, while oxygen is released into the air. The large surface of the collectors also serves to regulate the heat balance. Sensors detect the relevant parameters, such as filling level, amount of light, pH value, temperature and carbon dioxide content. In this way, the photo-bioreactor “knows” whether the carbon dioxide from the air is enough for its algae culture or needs to be added from a gas cartridge. If the daylight is no longer sufficient, special UV lamps are used. PhotoBionicCell – The photo-bioreactor What know-how does the PhotoBionicCell conceal? Microorganisms as factories Green and transparent Dynamic life – inside and out
15 14 Algae growth, day and night 3D printing with biomass Respiration under control Intelligent sensor technologies Quantum sensors for optimised resolution Soft sensors combine data Thanks to automation, the bacteria cultures can grow under ideal conditions around the clock. The continuous collection and monitoring of measurement data ensures the high quality not only of the algae growth itself, but also of the basic substances the algae produce when nutrients are added. The experts from Festo have been giving particular attention to the vegetable chlorella alga and the blue-green alga Synechocystis, a species of cyanobacteria. Chlo- rella is used as a food supplement and in the production of cosmetics; Synechocystis also produces colour pigments, omega-3 fatty acids and beads of PHB (polyhydroxybutyric acid) for bioplastics. The yield of these algae species in the automated PhotoBionicCell from Festo surpasses that of systems commonly used today, which are designed as open basins or foil bioreactors, by a factor of about ten. The PHB beads from the PhotoBionicCell can be processed into a filament for 3D printing by the addition of other substances. With this modern production technology, sustainable plastic components or packaging with complex shapes – and connecting elements for the photo-bioreactor from Festo – can be produced within a short time. The 3D-printed elements are recyclable and environmentally degradable in a closed cycle. Even the incineration of PHB-based plastic bottles does not release any more carbon dioxide than was previously bound from the ambient air. No fossil resources are required in the production of bioplastics. Photo-bioreactors throughout all continents are to produce biomass in large quantities in future, in exceptional quality. They should consume only a minimum of resources, while binding as much carbon dioxide as possible from the ambient air – a complex task, which requires many factors to be optimised at once. The experts are meeting this challenge with their many years of competence in control and regulation technology, with state-of- the-art components from microfluidics and LifeTech and, last but not least, with expertise in artificial intelligence. The PhotoBionicCell reactor system must be able to automatically provide for its bacterial cultures. A flawlessly functioning respiration cycle is essential, since algae are living organisms with a permanent metabolism. With a holistic gassing strategy, the development experts are ensuring that the carbon dioxide extracted from the air is evenly distributed within the circulating biofluid. An innovative, material- optimised ceramic element from Festo with minute pores already enables introduction of the gas in the form of fine bubbles. To be able to provide the best possible growth and living conditions for the microorganisms, sensors must provide the right information – constantly and, above all, in real time. Only then is it possible to react to process events immediately and to regulate accordingly. In combination with classic sensor technology, the innovative technologies employed in the PhotoBionicCell by the experts from Festo literally make for quantum leaps in automation. A new type of sensor based on quantum technology provides precise infor- mation about the growth of the bacteria culture. The algae are automatically and continuously introduced into it in microfluidic dilution. The quantum sensor is able to detect individual cells by means of a laser beam, so that the quantity of biomass in the PhotoBionicCell can be determined. It also examines the cells for their state of health. It provides four times as many measurement values as was possible with sensors previously used. The experts are expecting even more in the future: the new quantum sensors are opening up an unimaginable dimension of spatial resolution and sensitivity. Another option is to use the intelligent soft sensor from Festo instead of quantum technology. This is a kind of virtual sensor that is implemented in the programmable logic controller in the control cabinet. All the information from the bioreactor and its surroundings is brought together here, along with the data streams from the classic sensors – temperature, nutrient supply, carbon dioxide content, pressure, reactor filling level and pH value. Algorithms process the signals received and instantly compute the missing variables, such as the overall quantity of microalgae or the basic substances they produce. On this basis, the actuators come into operation and the entire system is thus controlled. The integration of soft sensors makes it possible to deduce difficult-to-measure conditions within the process on the basis of existing measurement signals. With automated and energy-optimised bioreactors such as the PhotoBionicCell from Festo, the efficiency of algae can be increased by a factor of ten. Algae are already efficient in nature and bind ten times more carbon dioxide than land plants in the production of biomass.
17 16 Nothing is possible without digitalisation: digital twins are essential to the establishment of a biologically inspired circular economy. In future, they will enable the entire life cycle of a bioreactor to be simulated and virtually mapped. The expected cell growth of a wide variety of microorganisms can then also be estimated to a high degree of accuracy even before a real system is physically built. Digital twins thus provide transparency at an early stage: they accelerate the professional design of highly efficient, automated bioreactors for future-proof and agile development. The real world can be strategically extended using methods of augmented reality. Employees, customers and partners of Festo or trade fair visitors can also virtually experience the innovations in connection with the PhotoBionicCell and its physical structure. If a tablet is pointed towards the real exhibit, for example, technical procedures, process parameters and informations are displayed as videos, text modules or graphics. Depending on their own personal interests, users can immerse themselves in new bio-worlds and learn inter- esting facts: What is photosynthesis, and how do the processes unfold inside the PhotoBionicCell? What technology is used for this, and which products from Festo are installed? What do the commissioning and remote maintenance of the photo-bioreactor involve? Digital twins for early transparency Augmenting reality at will Keeping an eye on the outside world Optimising with artificial intelligence An intuitive human-machine interface A holistic approach also means remaining aware of the surroundings of the PhotoBionicCell while concentrating on its inner workings. The experts from Festo use a special multisensor device to record various environmental parameters in order to draw conclusions about the growth of the algae. How much sunlight was there in a certain period of time, and from what direction did the radiation come? What were the exterior temperatures and humidity? Particularly relevant here is precise knowledge of the carbon dioxide concentration of the outside air. In this connection, an intricate method was developed to enrich the carbon dioxide before it reaches the bioreactor via the surface collectors: for optimal growth the microalgae need a carbon dioxide concentration of three to five percent by volume, whereas the natural concentration in the ambient air is lower by a factor of around 100. Maximum efficiency and optimum process stability in 24-hour operation, with monitoring of all relevant parameters of the PhotoBionicCell – this is the declared goal of Festo. The experts also use methods of artificial intelligence to evaluate the data volumes generated. This enables the bioreactor to be optimised with a view to either propagating the algae cultures or maintaining specified growth parameters with a minimum of energy input. Predictive operational monitoring is also used: the remaining service life of valves or other components can be forecast by means of artificial intelligence. To prevent an imminent production failure, the system optimises itself on the basis of this data – it throttles the speed of production, indicates necessary maintenance tasks or initiates further strategic measures. Since bioreactors are highly complex systems, their widespread use in the future also depends on practical considerations: Can they be easily commissioned and operated? Can they be controlled and maintained from any location? Can it be ensured that know-how is not lost following a change of personnel? The IT specialists provide an intuitive human-machine interface with intelligent software whose graphical user interface makes for simple orientation. All bioreactors from Festo are displayed with current data, including live recording. Users can also manually change parameters or visualise evaluations of the biomass growth around the clock via a mobile phone or tablet. When a sample of the culture is taken from a bioreactor on site, the sensor data recorded at that time are displayed. New features can be added to the software at any time; updates are carried out automatically. A large number of state-of-the-art technologies act together to optimise the overall system of the PhotoBionicCell bioreactor. The specialists from Festo rely on innovative sensor, control and regulation technology, digitalisation and artificial intelligence.
19 18 Bioreactors that use algae cells as miniature factories hold considerable potential for a climate-neutral circular economy. Aquatic algae are already extremely efficient in their natural photosynthesis outside the laboratory: they bind ten times more carbon dioxide than land plants. This figure can be increased by at least another factor of ten when the algae cultures grow in energy-optimised bioreactors, as in the automated process devised by Festo. A promising prospect for fixing carbon dioxide even more effectively is offered by so-called artificial photosynthesis. Technical approaches based on semiconductors are currently undergoing research, as is the idea of optimising the natural process by means of synthetic biology, in which entirely new meta- bolic pathways are being devised on computer. The fields of science, industry and politics are placing high expectations on this development. Used in flexible, decentralised plants around the globe, artificial photosynthesis can make a sustainable contribution to the future supply of energy and raw materials. The specialists at Festo are therefore expecting considerable increases in efficiency for bioreactors. Scientists are working on optimising the natural photosynthesis apparatus at the cellular level with the aid of so-called droplets – artificial chloroplasts. These have a diameter of around 90 micrometres and are synthetically produced; they contain components of plant organisms, enzymes and biocatalysts. As miniature reaction vessels, they are able to bind and convert carbon dioxide using light energy, just like their biological models. Their processes are 20 times more efficient than natural photosynthesis – an ideal basis for their use in the automated PhotoBionicCell from Festo. There are many ways of fitting out the droplets; the scientists are currently searching for the best combinations of components. However, a particular enzyme can be used in many different variants, in addition to the respective variants of the other modules. To facilitate and expedite the scientific work here in particular, know-how in automation, liquid handling, digitalisation and artificial intelligence is called for. The number of combinations requiring to be tested is in the order of millions and is simply too large for manual dispensing, pipetting and analysing. Natural and artificial Droplets as artificial chloroplasts Basic research meets automation PhotoBionicCell – The photo-bioreactor Can natural photosynthesis be improved?
21 20 The research goal is to obtain the best results for the artificial photosynthesis process as quickly as possible. For this purpose, minute volumes of material must be handled safely and reliably in the laboratories. Intelligent systems and components from the LifeTech business unit can relieve humans of repetitive, time-consuming and error-prone tasks. An innovative dispensing robot from Festo, for example, tests variants of an enzyme that is required for the artificial photosynthesis and will finally be incorporated into the droplets. The dispensing head quickly and precisely fills the microtitre plates with tiny droplets of the desired liquids in accordance with the scientists’ specifications. Performance of the individual experiments is automated by this assistant. To enable the researchers to concentrate on their core tasks, the automated equipment in the laboratories must be easy and intuitive to operate. This is an essential task of digitalisation. Specially developed software from Festo with a graphical user interface ensures, for example, that the microtitre plates are displayed and that users can select with a click which of the shafts are to be filled with what quantity and type of fluid. Artificial intelligence methods will continue to provide targeted support for automatic analyses and assessments in future – for example by calculating optima, performing random tests or de- termining which clusters are to be given particular scientific scrutiny. Questions as to the efficient design of plants and systems are becoming increasingly urgent in view of the threat of climate change. The scientists are thus testing the effectiveness and progress of artificial photosynthesis processes in parallel in an algae bioreactor: with a capacity of one and a half litres, this is a smaller version of the PhotoBionicCell from Festo described above. It of course has the same innovative features, for example in its methods of regulation and control, sensor technology and the gassing strategy; but the system is specifically tailored to the requirement profile of the research work and focuses on cultivating the artificially produced cells. Automatic dispensing The digitalised laboratory A bioreactor for research The research bioreactor provides ideal conditions for the scientifically required droplet experiments – and thus also for the research and application of artificial photosynthesis. The experts from Festo are able to automate “living” processes by means of innovative technologies. Although the interdisciplinary specialists are still in the midst of the development process, the reality of the future is already becoming apparent today: when expertise in automation and basic research cooperate in synergy, carbon dioxide-neutral production on a large industrial scale can come closer to becoming reality. A sustainable circular economy can only be realised if humankind strives for it as a common goal. Theoretical knowledge, practical know-how and interdisciplinary linking of the two are required here in a wide variety of fields and sectors. Whether it be control cabinet solutions for bioreactors, innovations in laboratory automation and medical technology, new training professions and courses of study or worldwide cooperation in research and development – not a single aspect is dispensable in the age of biological transformation. Achieving more together Artificial photosynthesis promises a considerable increase in efficiency for bioreactors, whereby synthetically produced droplets take on the role of natural chloroplasts. Scientists are cooperating with experts from Festo to optimise the structure of these droplets as rapidly as possible.
23 22 Bioreactors will play a key role in the circular economy of the future – no matter what kind of microorganisms they cultivate. Expertise in process automation is essential in order to ensure that the systems can reliably produce biomass in the desired quantities. Festo provides its customers and partners with intelligent control cabinet solutions for bioreactors. The entire control cabinet consists of a central element containing the process control system, and smaller sensor and actuator units decentrally distributed throughout the plant. I/O systems process the electrical signals, and valve terminals control the pneumatic drives. Communication takes place via fieldbus technology. What is currently still only a niche market in biological production will undergo extensive development in the coming years. Thanks to innovative process automation, entire plants can be built from individual production modules, and they can be easily commissioned and remotely maintained. Automated bio- reactors have the potential to produce basic materials for industrial value-added processes around the globe – in a resource- saving and energy-efficient way. Process automation Control cabinets for bioreactors Whether it be in science, pharmaceuticals or medicine: the LifeTech specialists from Festo are automating work in the laboratory. With intelligent solutions, they are relieving humans of time-consuming and error-prone tasks such as manual dispensing, pipetting or analysing. The LifeTech business unit is developing highly efficient, miniaturised systems that reliably and safely cover the entire process chain in the laboratory. In this way, a wide variety of samples and vessels can be handled within only a short time, and minute volumes of fluid can be pipetted and dispensed – with auto- mated control of all processes. The innovative components are also to be found in point-of-care systems for flexible sample analysis independent of location. In the fast-growing field of medical technology, especially the piezo valves and mass flow controllers from Festo are proving their worth: they ensure safe operation of sensitive surgical equipment, anaesthetic gas mixers and portable respirators. The innovative piezo technology can also be used for pneumatically supported medical mattresses; this relieves the burden on patients and care staff alike. They secure the most important function of detergents and cleaning agents, cosmetics and plant protection products: surfactants dissolve and bind fats. To date, these substances have been synthesised from fossil raw materials in chemical processes. More sustainable in terms of climate and environ- mental protection, however, is their biotechnological production on the basis of organic raw materials. Renowned companies and research institutions are turning their attention to this promising field for the future in the strategic “Innovation Alliance for Biosurfactants”. Festo is one of the cooperation partners in this consortium, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. In special research reactors, the automation specialists breed bacteria that are fed with vegetable oils or sugar from residue materials. The microorganisms also need oxygen and nutrients to reproduce and to produce surfactants by biological means. An innovative automation solution ensures suitable living conditions for these organisms: by means of soft sensor technology from Festo, the total quantity of biomass can be determined on the basis of available measurement data – such as supply of air and nutrients, temperature, pressure, pH value, filling level, and oxygen and carbon dioxide content. The virtual sensor is implemented on a programmable logic controller. Via control algorithms, the automation technology ensures an optimal supply of the bacteria for production of the desired biosurfactant. Biological, not chemical The Innovation Alliance for Biosurfactants LifeTech Laboratory automation and medical technology If biology and physics are to merge in the worlds of production and if organic cells are to become the factories of the future, know-how and expertise are required. But where does this knowledge come from, and what needs to be learned in order to gain it? As a learning company, Festo is ideally prepared thanks to its decades of involvement with bionics and related issues. However, the dynamism brought about by industrial biologisation in the sense of a holistic circular economy must be accompanied by a similar dynamism in the field of learning and education. The specialists at Festo Didactic are working very intensively to achieve this synchronisation. Their aim is to analyse the new requirements for knowledge, define interdisciplinary links and establish innovative training professions and courses of study. Biomechatronics, bioinformatics, bioengineering, biocybernetics and sustainability management? The paradigm shift affects future-oriented business fields and professional requirements in equal measure. This is why Festo is already today setting the course for the biological transformation of the economy with worldwide commitment. Only with education can the global challenges of the 21st century be met responsibly. Didactic Into the future with education
25 24 Some 50 scientists are working on so-called artificial photo- synthesis at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg under the leadership of biologist and chemist Prof. Dr. Tobias Erb. Their declared aim is to create artificial cells that bind and convert the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by means of light energy – and more efficiently than nature. The synthetically produced chloroplasts – so-called droplets, with a diameter of 90 micrometres – could be used in automated bioreactors in future and will make a sustainable contribution to climate protection. To achieve this on an industrial scale as quickly as possible, the research team is cooperating in an interdisciplinary exchange with the automation specialists from Festo. For the droplet experiments, the researchers are using a special bioreactor from Festo that is designed to meet their scientific requirements. They are also supported by intelligent LifeTech systems and components. An innovative dispensing robot, for example, assumes the time-consuming laboratory tasks that are necessary for optimising the artificial cells. This synergetic form of work is of benefit not only to automation and basic re- search, but above all to society and the environment. Artificial photosynthesis Cooperation with a Max Planck research team Facts and figures Technical information PhotoBionicCell bioreactor – Overall height: 3.0 m – Surface collectors: 5.0 m2 – Collector radius: 1.6 – 2.7 m – Cultivator Height: 57.0 cm Diameter: 25.0 cm Capacity: 15.0 l – Algae layer thickness: 5.5 cm – Materials of the lightweight structures Bioreactor: acrylic glass Connecting clamps: polyhydroxybutyric acid (PHB) Nodes: QuickGen 500 (3D-printed material) Connecting rods: acrylic glass (glass-bead blasted) Distribution elements: e-Clear (3D-printed material) – Sensors inside the bioreactor: 14 – Multisensors outside the bioreactor: 1 (5 parameters) – Quantum sensor: 1 – Monitoring parameters: 9 – Pumps: 12 Research bioreactor – Overall height: 35.0 cm – Diameter: 13.5 cm – Capacity: 2.0 l – Cultivation capacity: 1.5 l – Algae layer thickness: 0.37 cm – Sensors inside the bioreactor: 13 – Monitoring parameters: 9 – Pumps: 7 User interface – Festo Web Essentials for generating the web interface – Data storage every 30 s – Bidirectional communication (between edge devices and user interface) – Communication protocols: OPC-UA and MQTT Dispensing robot – Filling time for 96-microtitre plate: 60 s – Volumes: 5 µl – 1 ml – Repeatability: +/- 1% – Valves: 8 VYKA (individually controllable) – Intuitive operation – Web-based interface
27 26 Interesting facts about artificial photosynthesis – The processes of artificial photosynthesis are 20 times more efficient than those occurring in nature. – The artificial droplets have a diameter of around 90 micrometres. – These are synthetically produced water-in-oil drops that contain components of plant organisms, enzymes and biocatalysts. Algae instead of petroleum? – Around a quarter of global petro- leum consumption is accounted for by industrial production. – Around 90 per cent of all chemical products manufactured in Germany are currently based on petroleum as a raw material. – Production of a single bottle of shampoo requires more than a litre of petroleum; about three kilograms of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere in the process. – Plastic packaging and products, detergents, medicines or cos- metics could be made from carbon dioxide-neutral PHB produced throughout the world by algae in photo-bioreactors, rather than on the basis of petroleum. – Photo-bioreactors are around three times more efficient than today’s photovoltaic units. – There are some 7,000 algae production sites worldwide, producing about 25,000 tonnes of algae per year. – Algae can be given residual materials from agricultural and food production as nutrients. – Increased use of photo- bioreactors worldwide would require effective, auto- mated and energy-efficient gassing of the units. – Biologisation in a circular economy is preparing the global growth market for photo-bioreactors. General information on photo-bioreactors
29 28 “Man can harness the forces of nature to an entirely different extent than he has done hitherto,” stated the natural philosopher Raoul Heinrich Francé (1874 – 1943). “He need only apply all the principles which the organism has brought to bear in its operation, in order to have employment for centuries to come for all his capitals, strengths and talents.” There is so much to be learned from nature; it also holds the necessary knowledge as to how we can transform our current economic system into a well-balanced circular economy. Learning is a guiding principle of Festo. From nature and for nature. Festo sees bioeconomy as the economic system of the future. This entails a fundamental transformation that will change society’s system of values and people’s perceptions. However, sacrifices on the part of individuals will not alone be enough to sustainably make a stand against global climate change. We need more intelligent material flows and efficient use of resources along the entire value chain. Just as industrial society superseded agricultural society in the 19th century, the ecological age is now dawning. Our relationship to nature and technology is being reshaped with a changed sense of responsibility. Plants are creative masters of adaptation; as pioneers, they have conquered new realms since time immemorial. With their process of photosynthesis, they create habitats for humans and animals alike and safeguard biodiversity on earth. The specialists from Festo are currently working with algae cells – the ancestors of land plants that have been carrying out photosynthesis for around 2.5 billion years. Their automated cultivation in modern photo-biore- actors is set to make a decisive contribution to climate protection. As soon as so-called artificial photosynthesis becomes established, the efficiency of the photo-bioreactors can be further increased. In the basic research laboratories, scientists are now using methods of synthetic biology to improve natural photosynthesis. They are supported in their work by expertise in automation technology and components from Festo. Natural evolution is inspiring technological evolution at Festo. The plant kingdom, which accounts for around 99.9 percent of the earth’s biomass, holds enormous potential here; humans and animals constitute less than a thousandth of the overall volume. These “green” creatures have neither nerves nor a brain, but react to stimuli in the form of sound, physical contact or smell – and successfully communicate with each other. The bionics experts are investigating this special type of biocommunication. Cooperative robots, for example, could be fitted out with innovative sensor technology in future, in order not only to see and hear, but also to smell, taste and touch. As a globally operating, family-owned learning company, Festo is in a position to develop intelligent products, solutions and applications for a sustainable future. For this great brand promise, the experts are guided by five dimensions in their everyday work: technology, innovation, education, knowledge and responsibility. Their intention is to increase the productivity of their customers and partners and to humanise the increasingly digitalised worlds of work by means of an intuitive relationship between humans and technology. The goal of a value-creating circular economy is a healthy human in a likewise healthy environment. Once these innovations become marketable, they will make a decisive contribution to conserving resources. The automated PhotoBionicCell bioreactor from Festo needs to be scaled up to a dimension of several thousand litres in future, in order for the desired quantities of biomass to be generated with controlled cell growth. The petroleum-based chemical processes that take place in today’s large-scale plants in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries can then make way for biological processes. Industries that produce cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, fats, surfactants, proteins or textiles in small volumes will likewise benefit from bioreactors: the use of artificial intelligence will enable them to arrive at optimal formulations more quickly, and thus also the so- called “golden batch” – their optimum in environment-friendly production. In addition to scaling upwards, Festo is also focusing on the smallest of worlds. Whether it be microfluidics in the bioreactor, dispensing in the digitalised and networked research laboratory or continuous quality assessment of batches produced: expertise, systems and components are everywhere in demand when it comes to automatically handling small quantities of fluid very rapidly and with utmost precision. In terms of personalised medicine, the experts at LifeTech are developing miniaturised laboratories for the mobile analysis of samples wherever and whenever needed. Hospitals will also be able to use bioreactors in future to produce the required medicines for their patients locally and in very small quantities. Biological and flexible batch production that is to be available not only in industrialised areas but on all continents must take further considerations into account. The systems need to be modular, easy to commission and remotely maintainable. The specialists at Festo are using digital twins, among other things, to ensure transparency at an early stage throughout the bioprocess and are devising overarching standards. The individual production modules of the plants should be able to be easily connected, exchanged and extended as required on site – independently of manufacturer. Epilogue Into the ecological age Economy, ecology and responsibility Inspired by pioneers With sense and reason The Festo brand Bioreactors for industry Expertise on a large and a small scale Digital, modular, standardised
31 30 Learning for the paradigm shift From the atom to the cell For Festo, the developments in connection with the photo-bioreactor represent a constant, multifaceted learning process. Bionic thinking and action form the basis, since the company has been guided for decades by the secret of nature’s success: autopoiesis – the process of creating, maintaining and transforming oneself solely on the basis of one’s own elements. An algae cell, for example, is an autopoietic system that renews itself in an interplay of reaction chains involving synthesis and decomposition. In a figurative sense, this demonstrates the absolute necessity of taking an appreciative view of humanity and of deeply anchoring the learning culture. For a biological transformation of the economy, Festo itself must act autopoietically. The didactics experts are currently working towards synchronising the necessary ecological transformation in industry with training and education. Molecules, cells and organisms will become the preeminent protagonists of a sustainable circular economy in the 21st century. Biology as the new driver of industrial value creation is bringing about a reduction in dependence on fossil resources. Not only is the release of climate-damaging greenhouse gas prevented; atmospheric carbon dioxide can even be actively bound. The cultivation of living cells relies on innovative technologies in digital production worlds with intelligent process automation, artificial intelligence and powerful sensor technology. Festo is able to shape the symbiosis of physical and biological processes. New paths are created when we tread them.
33 32 “He who has understood the ‘inventions of the plant’ is richer than any invention of man can ever make him.” Raoul Heinrich Francé The “element” earth: Festo is actively committed to technical education for farmers in Ghana. The goal is a functioning agricultural industry that does justice both to people and to the environment. Around the globe, Festo is oriented towards the example of nature. Production of the future will be based on the pre-Socratic doctrine of the four classical elements, whereby the raw materials used are “transformed” into earth, water, air and energy. From the design stage to dismantling into individual components, recycling takes place within closed cycles.
35 34 “The law of the world necessitates that the technology of the organic and that of man are ultimately identical.” Raoul Heinrich Francé The “element” water: it is precious and needs to be protected. Especially in view of the challenges presented by climate change, this vital resource must be treated responsibly. One of Europe’s most modern waterworks, located in Langenau in southern Germany, is automated with drives, systems and components from Festo. With its innovative technologies, Festo is able to make the management of water and wastewater, operations with high-performance filling systems and dealing with minute quantities of fluids sustainable.