A new method for on-line monitoring of fermentations using mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy has been developed. The method has been used to predict the concentrations of glucose and ethanol during a baker's yeast fermentations. A completely automated flow system was employed as an interface between the bioprocess under study and the Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectrometer, which was equipped with a flow cell housing a diamond attenuated total reflection (ATR) element. By using the automated flow system, experimental problems related to adherence of CO(2) bubbles to the ATR surface, as well as formation of biofilms on the ATR surface, could be efficiently eliminated. Gas bubbles were removed during sampling, and by using rinsing steps any biofilm could be removed from the ATR surface. In this way, constant measuring conditions could be guaranteed throughout prolonged fermentation times (approximately 8 h). As a reference method, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with refractive index detection was used. The recorded data from different fermentations were modeled by partial least-squares (PLS) regression comparing two different strategies for the calibration. On the one hand, calibration sets were constructed from spectra recorded from either synthetic standards or from samples drawn during fermentation. On the other hand, spectra from fermentation samples and synthetic standards were combined to form a calibration set. Differences in the kinetics of the studied fermentation processes used for calibration and prediction, as well as the precision of the HPLC reference method, were identified as the main chemometric sources of error. The optimal PLS regression method was obtained using the mixed calibration set of samples from fermentations and synthetic standards. The root mean square errors of prediction in this case were 0.267 and 0.336 g/L for glucose and ethanol concentration, respectively.
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