Frequently asked questions

What is the Pioreactor?

The Pioreactor is our custom hardware for growing microbial cultures (a bioreactor), and software for controlling the hardware, performing measurements, and analysis of the microbes. 

Whereas traditional bioreactors cost thousands of dollars and come with expensive service contracts, the Pioreactor is designed to be low-cost, customizable, scalable, and (partly) open source. Think of it as the Raspberry Pi of bioreactors

The accessibility of the Pioreactor means that it's a great tool for educators, for individuals wanting to learn more about biology, and for researchers who want access to bioreactors.

When will the Pioreactor be available?

Winter 2022-ish. Probably.   

How much will it cost?

Definitely less than $100 CAD / $80 USD / $65 EUR. Our goal is to make the Pioreactor as accessible as possible. We'll also be selling different kits for simple to advanced use cases. 

What features will it have?

  • real-time optical density using scattering of infrared light
  • real-time growth rates
  • web-based interface for controlling bioreactors
  • control over stirring speeds
  • how and when dosing occurs
  • ports for up to 8 embedded LEDs
  • control of LEDs (for example, in photo-bioreactors)
  • control of temperature, from ambient temp to ~(ambient temp + 20℃)
  • communication between Pioreactors
  • data exports to CSV
  • data backups
  • use as an inline sensor for larger systems
  • blanks, temperature calibration, and pumping calibration

We are also designing a plugin system, which can extend the Pioreactor's abilities to include other peripherals (like air pumps), integration with other systems (like BrewPi, Benchling, etc.), and reporting to Slack, text, email, etc. 

How do I control multiple Pioreactors?

You can control as many Pioreactors as you have in a single UI. There is no hard limit on the number of Pioreactors in your "cluster" (unlike other bioreactors, which have a limit of 4, 8, etc.)

What is the volume of the bioreactor?

The Pioreactor holds 20mL glass vials, but we recommend filling it to 15mL. However, you can pair the Pioreactor with any larger bioreactor and still use all the features of the Pioreactor: using the Pioreactor as an inline sensor for larger bioreactors.

What can I grow in the Pioreactor?

We've successfully grown yeast, bacteria, and algae. We never tried it, but theoretically mammalian and insect cells can be grown in a Pioreactor, too. Filamentous fungi, like Aspergillus, can be grown, but the Pioreactor can't track its growth or density. Anaerobic cultures can be grown, too.  

Is it easy to clean / reusable?

Yes, the glass vial and cap can be removed, cleaned, and autoclaved. Media tubes are cleaned and sterilized by running dilute bleach through them. 

How is mixing / aeration done? 

A magnetic stir bar is included, and a spinning magnetic field beneath the vial mixes the culture. Here's an entire blog post about it.

Who is this for?

Where can I watch development?

We develop the hardware and software on Github. We also write about our development our blog

Where are you located?

We are based in Waterloo, Canada. Want to chat? Email us at hello@pioreactor.com! 

Will you ship to country Y?

Almost definitely, yes. We plan to distribute Pioreactors internationally.

Is it open source?

Our software is open source, with an API and Python plug-in system for users to build custom software on top of.