Bioreactor may refer to any manufactured or engineered device or system that supports a biologically active environment. In one case, a bioreactor is a vessel in which a chemical process is carried out which involves organisms or biochemically active substances derived from such organisms. This process can either be aerobic or anaerobic. These bioreactors are commonly cylindrical, ranging in size from litres to cubic metres, and are often made of stainless steel.
Organisms growing in bioreactors may be submerged in liquid medium or may be attached to the surface of a solid medium. Submerged cultures may be suspended or immobilized. Suspension bioreactors can use a wider variety of organisms, since special attachment surfaces are not needed, and can operate at much larger scale than immobilized cultures. However, in a continuously operated process the organisms will be removed from the reactor with the effluent. Immobilization is a general term describing a wide variety of cell or particle attachment or entrapment. It can be applied to basically all types of biocatalysis including enzymes, cellular organelles, animal and plant cells.