About this online course


Get introduced to the basics of designing industrial processes for biobased products, from renewable feedstock to biomaterials, chemicals, nutrition products and biofuels.

This course provides the insights and tools for designing biotechnological processes with sustainability advantages, where choices of product and feedstock determine the specific process requirements. As fossil-based fuels and raw materials contribute to climate change, the use of renewable feedstocks, materials and energy as an alternative is in full swing.

This transition is not a luxury, it is a necessity. We can use microorganisms to convert organic streams (‘waste’ or residues) and/or CO2 into biomaterials, chemicals, nutrition products and biofuels.
Eight experienced course leaders will unfold the basics of industrial biotechnology and how to apply these to the design of fermentation-based processes to produce a wide range of bioproducts. Throughout the course, you will be challenged to design your own biotechnological process and evaluate its performance and sustainability.  

The course includes guest lectures from industry and universities. By following this course, you will be able to contribute up-to-date ideas in the biotechnology field.

What you'll learn

After this course participants will be able to:

  • Explain the need for sustainable innovation and how biotechnology and biobased production can contribute to this
  • Describe the global context of biobased production
  • Map the biobased economy, from research to application and from raw materials to products
  • Solve basic level calculations in bioprocess engineering

Verified learners will have the added benefit of being able to:

  • Integrate scientific and technological knowledge on the use of bioprocesses for industrial products at the cell and process level
  • Develop and assess the conditions for efficient and sustainable design of bioprocesses
  • Perform undergraduate engineering level calculations in bioprocess engineering


Over 25 employees of Zymergen participated in the online course "Industrial Biotechnology" offered by TU Delft. This resulted in increased understanding of microbial physiology and fermentation technology and how to scale up bioproduction processes. Through this course, the quality of our R&D work will further improve and timelines for commercialization of bioprocesses will be shortened - Stefan de Kok, Director Fermentation - Zymergen


Course Syllabus

Getting started/Introduction is included in Week 1

Week 1. Biotechnology for Biobased Products

  • Why develop a biobased/circular economy?
  • Industrial biotechnology
  • Feedstocks - renewable sources of biomass/CCU for biobased products
  • Process to produce bio-PDO (1,3-Propanediol)
  • Benefits for society and sustainability - evaluating the effects of biobased production

Week 2. Fermentation Essentials (PDO focus)

  • Microbes and interaction with their environment
  • Rates and balances
  • The process reaction and the black box model
  • The PDO case
  • Introduction fermentation technology
  • Scale-up via scale-down

 Week 3. Downstream Processing Principles and Design

  • Introduction to DownStream Processing (DSP)
  • Seperating in stages
  • Mechanical separations
  • Molecular separations
  • PDO Cases

Week 4. Integral, Zero-emission Bioprocess Design

  • Towards an integrated bioprocess
  • 1st and 2nd generation feedstock and pre-treatment: producing high quality feedstock
  • 3rd to 5th generation feedstock: Alternative carbon, electron and energy sources
  • Bioprocesses using 3rd to 5th generation feedstock
  • Overall process - syngas fermentation to ethanol

Week 5. Process Design and Sustainability Assessment

  • Conceptual process design 
  • Mass and energy balances
  • Process economics 
  • Environmental impacts analysis and life cycle assessment 
  • Social sustainability
  • Sustainability in a global context

Week 6. Wrap-up

  • Closing lecture: Industrial Biotechnology outlook (preliminary title)
  • Final assessment

Other Instructors

  • Prof. dr. Patricia Osseweijer
  • Dr. ir. Wouter van Winden
  • Em. prof. dr. Sef Heijnen


This is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that runs on EdX.


High school understanding of mathematics. First year undergraduate level of (bio)chemistry and biology.

  • Starts: Jun 18, 2024
  • Free | Earn certificate for $149
  • Group fee: contact us
  • Length: Self-Paced
  • Effort: 6 - 8 hours per week / 7 weeks

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