Experimental High-P and T Bioreactors Sandpit Workshop Project uri icon

DCO ID 11121/5002-7281-4464-6089-CC


  • In August 2013, twenty industry and academic scientists from six nations gathered in France to identify specifications for instrumentation to facilitate high-pressure biological and geochemical investigations in order to advance our understanding of the nature and extent of deep microbial life, which are decadal goals of the DCO. Bioreactors—vessels supporting biologically active environments—are essential instruments in these efforts. Existing bioreactor chambers are customized to meet the needs of individual research labs and are often incompatible, making global collaboration difficult.

    Workshop participants first addressed the universal need for portable sample containers that allow researchers to share and transport high-pressure samples—challenges amplified by international and airline travel regulations. Vessels exist for collecting deep-sea or deep-continental samples under pressure for in situ analysis, but they are not engineered to sustain samples at high pressure throughout the entire sequence of transportation and analyses. Attendees addressed the optimum design for a new generation of compatible high-pressure/temperature containers for transporting pressurized samples from field sites and among laboratories. A key outcome of the workshop was the development of a set of transporter specifications and design elements that is currently being circulated for comment in the broader community of scientists interested in high-pressure biology. Feedback will be used to fine-tune sample transporter specifications. A number of vendors will be given the opportunity to bid on the engineering design and manufacture of the transporters.

    Workshop participants agreed that the best but most costly way to expand the scientific frontiers of high-pressure microbiology and geochemistry in order to achieve DCO goals would be to develop shared bioreactor facilities with capabilities greater than those of any single existing lab. Bioreactor users, representatives of pressure apparatus companies, and scientists and engineers involved in international drilling programs gave presentations and shared their knowledge during workshop discussion. Specifications were developed for a prototype bioreactor capable of hosting a range of cutting-edge experiments conducted at conditions matching Earth’s most extreme biological environments. The final specifications will be given to vendors in order to determine the cost of one or two international bioreactor facilities. Workshop attendees generated a range of ideas for the collaboration and fundraising necessary to make a community bioreactor feasible.