Alternative Cell Separation Method Based on Sedimentation Tank Principles (2019-2020)

Project Sponsor

GlaxoSmithKline

Project Description

Commercial biopharmaceuticals are generally produced by cell cultures in large bioreactors, with most products secreted from the cells. The product then must be separated from the much larger cells and cell debris for further downstream purification such as chromatography and buffer exchange unit operations. Often, the cell removal, called a harvesting step, is accomplished by a centrifugation process to remove the cells, followed by multiple filtration steps to remove cell debris and other larger particulates. However, centrifuges require extensive capital and maintenance. Moreover, shear forces during centrifugation can break the cells and introduce additional contaminants into the product stream, complicating downstream processing. Consequently, there is an interest in alternative technologies that can separate cells from cell culture media.

For this project, we expect the students to identify one or more technologies that can effectively separate cells from cell culture media with minimal stress to the product stream, while employing few moving parts, being single-use or easily reusable, and maximizing product yield (above at least 80%). The system should be designed based on scientific principles and demonstrated on a (small-scale) prototype or proof-of-concept. Introduction of new chemicals into the product stream is discouraged, and any chemicals that are introduced cannot be considered toxic and must be able to be cleared by conventional, further downstream processing. Closed processing options are highly encouraged to maintain control of potential bioburden. The device or technique needs to be scaleable to process a 2000 L bioreactor in less than 72 hours, either in a continuous or batch mode of operation. For the demonstration, students will have to grow a mammalian cell line (e.g., Chinese hamster ovary cells). Demonstration of separation should occur with a cell density greater than 10 million cells/mL.

Student Team Formation

Food and Biological Processing Engineering

Blair County Streambank Restoration (2019-2020)

Project Sponsor

Blair County Planning Commission

Project Description

Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River is located in Catharine Township, Blair County, PA and is part of the Juniata River Water Trail. The project area consists of residential and forest along SR 866 (Juniata River Road). The river currently has streambank erosion and stormwater issues that has caused debris to collect in the stream and the banks (primarily the eastern bank) to erode into private property causing property loss and flooding. Additionally, the embankment area between the river and the roadway is overgrown with dense shrubbery preventing access to the river by residents and emergency services.

This project will explore the feasibility of implementing a best management plan for the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River between Rocky Top Drive and the Truss Bridge at the crossing of SR 866 (Juniata River Road). The goal is to develop a detailed site plan, including recommended BMPs, to minimize stormwater debris from future storm events entering into the river and to stabilize this section of the riverbank from future erosion, allowing for continued navigation of this section of the river. As a first step, the problem should be quantified, including runoff rates and stormwater calculations. The existing streambank needs improvement to stabilize this section of the river bank, allow access, and prevent continued erosion and property loss. With implementation of the site plan, the hope is that this section of the river would collect minimal debris, stabilize the streambank, and allow continued access to and navigation of this section of the river. Ideally, the recommendations in the site plan would also inform future improvements at other locations with similar streambank erosion issues along the Juniata River Water Trail.

This project ties in with two existing Blair County initiatives - promoting community wellness by improving "active living" and recreation opportunities for the county as well as infrastructure and stormwater management. The county is in the process of updating its stormwater management plan and addressing MS4 permit requirements.

Student Team Formation

Natural Resource Engineering

Dissolved Oxygen Probe Cleaning Apparatus (2018-2019)

Project Sponsor

Solutionwerks

Project Description

In the wastewater treatment industry, one step of testing requires checking wastewater for levels of dissolved oxygen. Currently there are probes continuously inserted into the wastewater influent. These probes have an opaque tip, housing lights and other parts used to test the levels of oxygen present. The probes become blocked or fouled quickly (can be within hours) by microorganisms, buildup and particles, requiring frequent cleaning.

We are in need of developing a method of preventing or cleaning microbiological growth on the surface of submerged dissolved oxygen probes as used in wastewater treatment systems. Here are additional details:

1) Method must be compatible with Hach LDO probe technology type, and not impair the permeability of oxygen at the probe sensing surface. 2) Method must be operable at depths of up to 70" under the surface of the water. 3) Mechanical cleaning methods must be capable of being adjusted for timing from 0-60 minutes cycle, and from 0-30 seconds duration. 4) Both electrical power and instrument grade air at 50 psig are available at the sensor if needed. 5) Hach air blast systems are somewhat effective for a limited time. Improvement to this system has potential. 6) Reduction of probe cleaning required maintenance from weekly to several months would be considered a significant improvement.

Student Team Formation

Food and Biological Processing Engineering, Natural Resource Engineering

Modifying Hoppers to Minimize Potato Bruising (2019-2020)

Project Sponsor

Sterman Masser

Project Description

Sterman Masser, located in Sacramento, PA, is Pennsylvania's largest potato producer. They process ~150,000 pounds per day per line. With each potato weighing on average ~6 oz., this translates to ~400,000 individual potatoes per day per line. One of the most popular products is

5-pound poly bags. These can be run at 39 bags per minute (29,920 bags per day with breaks deducted). The total weight of potatoes processed between two shifts (8 hours per shift) is approximately 150,000 pounds (or ~ 1100 pounds per person-hour). This example, for the 5-pound poly bags, yields 80% O.E.E. (overall equipment effectiveness). The values are variable depending on the product (e.g., if 10-pound bags, bins, or bales are being run).

A key part of the process at Sterman Masser is conveyance of the potatoes. As shown in the video, potatoes are loaded into a feed tank, and then conveyed to a grade table, to a machine weigher, to a bagger, and then to a packed bin. As a result of speed, G-forces associated with conveyance lead to increased shrink (potatoes graded out that won't meet required quality specification for US #1 as table stock potato). Bruising, skinning, and internal injury occurs resulting in decrease profit margin.

The proposed project is to study and develop recommended solution(s) to reduce the bruising (defects) to potatoes as they are conveyed across operational production lines within packing shed of Sterman Masser, Inc. We are looking for a design modification(s) that are more ergonomically friendly to potatoes as they travel from hopper through the production line to final pack-out. The desired outcome is a design modification that leads to a 50% reduction in G-forces.

Student Team Formation

Agricultural Engineering, Food and Biological Processing Engineering