TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER OPPORTUNITY: Surface Attached BioReactor (SABR) for Microbial Cell Cultivation (TOP2-148)

Closes in 227 days

Date published
Closed 139 days ago
Closes in 227 days
- None

Ames Research Center
United States


NASA’s Technology Transfer Program solicits inquiries from companies interested in obtaining license rights to commercialize, manufacture and market the following technology.  License rights may be issued on an exclusive or nonexclusive basis and may include specific fields of use.  NASA provides no funding in conjunction with these potential licenses.
The high water-to-biomass ratio characteristic of conventional algae cultivation systems requires large energy inputs for pumping and mixing the culture during cultivation, as well as for dewatering and harvesting the resultant biomass. In light of this challenge, the Surface-Adhering BioReactor (SABR) cultivates micro-organisms as densely packed biofilms rather than in suspension, leading to an approximately 100-fold reduction in the water-to-biomass ratio of the system.  Moreover, the mechanism of nutrient delivery to the cells is completely passive, eliminating the need for a pump.  This mechanism is also independent of gravitational and inertial forces, making it an ideal candidate for human life support in space. The SABR is ideally suited for cultivating shear-sensitive cells, which can be product-secreting candidates due to their potential lack of cell walls.  It reduces the number of steps in the cascade of cultivation, harvesting, dewatering, and extraction, favorably impacting the energetic and economic sustainability.
The Surface-Adhering BioReactor (SABR) is a novel microbial cell cultivation platform that mimics the way vascular plants use transpiration to deliver nutrients to their cells. In this biomimetic platform, microbial cells are cultivated as immobilized cells on a porous substrate where transpiration is used to passively deliver water and nutrients as well as harvest and concentrate secreted biomolecules by the microbial cells.  The SABR transports nutrients to microorganisms without using a pump. Instead, evaporation and the cohesive property of water are exploited to pull the nutrient medium through the device, with a high degree of control, on an as needed basis.  It eliminates the hydrodynamic shear stress on the cells and decreases the working volume of water needed for cultivation by a factor of 25 compared to planktonic bioreactors.  Furthermore, the transpiration mechanism allows for the concentration of secreted products in areas of relatively fast evaporation, thus providing a passive means of secreted product harvesting.  By matching the time scales of nutrient medium delivery and product harvesting with the time scales of growth and product formation, minimal energy is wasted in bioreactor operation.  Transpiration enables a passive cooling system for the cells where either externally imposed or internally generated heat due to cellular activity is mitigated, thus preventing overheating that can lead to decreased productivity or even cell death. This technology enables significant reductions in energy input for cultivating microorganisms.

To express interest in this opportunity, please submit a license application through NASA’s Automated Technology Licensing Application System (ATLAS) by visiting
If you have any questions, please contact Ames Research Center with the title of this Technology Transfer Opportunity as listed in this FBO notice and your preferred contact information.  For more information about licensing other NASA-developed technologies, please visit the NASA Technology Transfer Portal at
These responses are provided to members of NASA’s Technology Transfer Program for the purpose of promoting public awareness of NASA-developed technology products, and conducting preliminary market research to determine public interest in and potential for future licensing opportunities. No follow-on procurement is expected to result from responses to this Notice.