An upflow bioreactor includes a vessel having an inlet and an outlet configured for upflow operation. A septum is positioned within the vessel and defines a lower chamber and an upper chamber. The septum includes an aperture that provides fluid communication between the upper chamber and lower chamber. The bioreactor also includes means for releasing pressure buildup in the lower chamber. In one configuration, the septum includes a releasable portion having an open position and a closed position. The releasable portion is configured to move to the open position in response to pressure buildup in the lower chamber. In the open position fluid communication between the lower chamber and the upper chamber is increased. Alternatively the lower chamber can include a pressure release line that is selectively actuated by pressure buildup. The pressure release mechanism can prevent the bioreactor from plugging and/or prevent catastrophic damage to the bioreactor caused by high pressures.
Work described herein has been supported, in part by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Energy, grant number 68-3A75-3-153. Therefore, the Government may have certain rights in this invention.