Modern Chemistry Podcast
Christian Gunder - Fermenting change
Episode 10 of the modern Chemistry podcast heads to the Mid-West US, Nebraska to be precise. We interview Christian Gunder, who is a fermentation microbiologist, currently working at Cargill. As you’ll hear in the show, Christin works on developing and optimizing a fermentation process for lactic acid product, which is then put to a very interesting use.
You will hear the following terms used during the interview. I’ve included some descriptions and links to deeper reading.
- Lactic acid – an organic (carbon-based) acid, with chemical formula CH3CH(OH)COOH
- Biopolymer – In this case, biopolymer refers to a polymer manufactured from biologically produced subunits. The subunits are specifically lactic acid in this case. A polymer is a molecule composed of repeating subunits.
- Biofuel – a fuel produced by processing biomass such as plant material, or plant or food waste.
- Biochemical engineering – the use of biological processes (either living cells, or molecule produced by living cells) in commercial manufacturing processes.
- Microbiology – the study of microorganisms, either unicellular or multicellular.Microbiology has a diverse range of sub-disciplines.
- Microgel – a gel produced from a network of microscopic filaments of a polymer.
- Fermentation – in this case, it refers to the activity of yeast on substrate material (the sugars from corn) and conversion into lactic acid. More widely, it can be thought of as any biological process which converts one substance into another.
- Starch – a polymer made of multiple glucose subunits. It is produced by almost all green plants as a form of energy storage. Chemical formula (C6H10O5)n
- Dextrose – another name for glucose, a simple sugar with the formula C6H12O6
- Strain (of yeast) – a specific variety of yeast with specific genetic and behavioral traits
- Scale down – taking a process from a large scale and replicating conditions in a smaller scale
- Scale up - taking a process from a small scale and replicating conditions in a larger scale
- Bioreactor – A device (usually some sort of container) that supports a biologically active environment.
- Gas transfer – the movement of gasses from the atmosphere (or in a bioreactor, from the inputs) into a liquid
- Media – a liquid supplemented with the necessary ingredients to support biological processes.
- YouTube – Journey to the microcosmos - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBbnbBWJtwsf0jLGUwX5Q3g
- Christian also mentioned that another challenge in scaleup is the potential for contamination (a topic of microbiology & engineering design that could be its own entire podcast). Contamination can lead to detrimental consequences, including hazardous conditions (such as explosive atmospheres, generated toxins mixed with product, etc…). Mitigating contamination risks is a large component of the Christians work, despite working with a system which is quite resilient to contamination.
- Christian also let me know of some mentors who have had a very positive impact on him, who he suggests would be good sources to discuss more about the industry with.
- Joe Spencer & Victor Sherony (Microbiology/Fermentation Technology/Biochemical Engineering); Cargill
- Kiril Streletzky, Ph.D; Petru Fodor, Ph.D; Jearl Walker, Ph.D; & Tara Peppard (Physics-related research and teaching); Cleveland State University
If you want to connect with Christian, or find out more about what he does, you can find him on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christiangunder/
Our theme music is "Wholesome" by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)
Music from https://filmmusic.io
License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Connect with me (Paul) at https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulorange/
H.E.L. group can be found at
on LinkedIn at
on twitter we’re @hel_group,
or search for us on Facebook