Alcoholic Fermentation – Energy Balance

Alcoholic Fermentation - Energy Balance

Imagine a process that occurs in darkness, without oxygen, and releases energy in the form of molecules called ATP. That’s alcoholic fermentation! Yeast cells, those tiny unicellular wonders, carry out this process to obtain the energy they need to perform their metabolic functions, such as growing and reproducing.
The most surprising thing is that this process produces two ATP molecules for every molecule of glucose. It’s like a perfect balance! Compared to cellular respiration, which produces 38 ATP molecules, it may seem low, but yeast cells know how to thrive with this amount of energy.
The chemistry behind alcoholic fermentation is amazing. With a ΔG value of -234.6 kJ mol-1 in a neutral pH 7 environment, this process is spontaneous from a thermodynamic point of view. It’s incredible how everything works in harmony to generate energy and allow these organisms to thrive in anaerobic conditions!
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However, as in every story, there are also some limitations in this ethanol production process. Yeasts have their sensitive side, and some limitations include resistance to high ethanol concentrations, substrate acidity, sugar concentration, oxygen contact, and temperature. But don’t worry, I’ll explain it to you here!
Some yeasts, like Saccharomyces cerevisiae, are quite resistant and can tolerate up to 20% ethanol by volume. But other yeasts are not so brave. Biochemical engineering uses complicated equations to understand how yeasts grow based on ethanol concentration. It’s like a chemical balancing game!

The pH of the fermentation substrate is also important. Yeasts work best in a pH range of 3.5 to 5.5, but the presence of certain fruit acids can hinder fermentation.

Sugar concentration also plays an important role. Too much or too little sugar can slow down the process, and the optimal concentration varies depending on the type of sugar and yeast used. In addition, yeasts are very sensitive to osmosis, a process that occurs within their cell membrane. It’s like a chemical dance inside the cells!

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