A bioreactor may refer to any device or system that supports a biologically active environment. In one case, a bioreactor is a vessel in which is carried out a chemical process which involves organisms or biochemically active substances derived from such organisms. This process can either be aerobic or anaerobic. These bioreactors are commonly cylindrical, ranging in size from liters to cube meters, and are often made of stainless steel.
A bioreactor may also refer to a device or system meant to grow cells or tissues in the context of cell culture. These devices are being developed for use in tissue engineering.
On the basis of mode of operation, a bioreactor may be classified as batch, fed batch or continuous (e.g. Continuous stirred-tank reactor model). An example of a bioreactor is the chemostat.
Organisms growing in bioreactors may be suspended or immobilized . The simplest, where cells are immobilized, is a Petri dish with agar gel. Large scale immobilized cell bioreactors are:
- moving media
- packed bed
- fibrous bed