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ON THE THERMODYNAMICS OF MICROBIAL-GROWTH PROCESSES

1991-10-05
SANDLER, SI
ORBEY, H
In this article, we provide a rigorous thermodynamic analysis of microbial growth processes, clarify the role of the generalized degree of reduction concept as it is used in both stoichiometric equations and as a characterizing factor for thermophysical properties, and introduce a classification method to account for errors when using the generalized degree of reduction to estimate the energy and free energy contents of molecules. We maintain the advantages of using the generalized degree of reduction while correcting for the large errors in the principle of energy regularity, especially for small molecules and for nitrogen-source compounds. As a result, we obtain more accurate energy balances (heat loads) and second law constraints, and are able to clarify contradictory statements in the literature as to whether nonphotosynthetic fermentation processes can produce oxygen or absorb rather than produce heat. Indeed, the answers to such questions become evident using the classification system introduced here.