Bettina Hübner/ Monika Klick
Institute of Agricultural Technology

Bundesallee 47
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 4102/ 4103
Fax: +49 531 596 4199

Biotechnological production of Itaconic acid


4 parallel fermenters (c) Thünen-Institut
4 parallel fermenters (© Thünen-Institut)

Biotechnological produced itaconic acid as raw material for the chemical industry

Itaconic acid is one of the most important bio-based building block chemicals. The potential market for itaconic acid is large with a wide range of applications. To develop a more economical process it is important to optimize the fermentation process even further.

Background and Objective

Itaconic acid is produced biotechnological with the fungus Aspergillus terreus using sugar as substrate. Although this process is carried out industrial more than 50 years, the maximum attainable concentrations of 90 g/L are significantly below those of comparable processes such as citric acid production. The costs of the biotechnological production of itaconic acid are mainly limited by low product concentration, low productivity and low yields. Therefore the main goal of the current work is a process optimization using intelligent, innovative strategies for the biotechnological production of itaconic acid.


At first a scale down of the fermentation process to µL scale should be carried out. This would be a requirement for an efficient subsequent media optimization. More fermentation parameters should be varied at bioreactor scale.

Data and Methods

A reduction of the scale was performed in microtiter plates, in which subsequently a media optimization was carried out. In a 400 mL and 1 L bioreactor system in particular the influence of the pH value was examined for the product formation.


During the project period, a simple system was established with low standard deviations in the ?L scale for mutations and a process optimization of biotechnological itaconic acid production with the filamentous fungus Aspergillus terreus. It shows very good correlation to the cultivation in shake flasks.

Furthermore, a new method of producing spores was established. Conducting a pH shift induced the formation of submerged spores. When using the submerged spores as inoculum for cultivation, the lag phase is shortened, the productivity is comparable to previously used spores from surface cultures, and the duration of cultivation is reduced.

The unique pH shift also shows a positive effect on the final itaconic acid concentration (110 g/L itaconic acid after 7.6 days). Performing a pH shift, with subsequent regulation of the pH, results in a significant increase of the final concentration to 146.1 g/L itaconic acid after 12.6 days cultivation with a yield of 0.59 (w/w). This is an increase in the final concentration of 68 % compared to the published literature. In a final experiment, the previously optimized parameters for the itaconic acid production were combined. Here, after 4.7 days of cultivation, a final concentration of 129.3 g/L itaconic acid was reached. This corresponds to a productivity of 1.15 g/L/h. The yield was with 0.58 (w/w) higher compared to the yield of the reference with 0.53 (w/w). The project has shown that the transfer to ?L scale is very successful feasible and contrary to the current literature there is no need for a phosphate limitation during itaconic acid production. Compared to the initial situation, 90 g/L itaconic acid after 7 days, the final concentration was significantly increased with a simultaneous reduction of the fermentation time, so that the knowledge gained in the project is of high scientific and industrial value.


Involved Thünen-Partners


8.2010 - 7.2013

More Information

Projekt type:
Project funding number: 22020908
Funding program: FNR
Project status: finished

Funding Body:

Logo FNR