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To examine the potential of Zymomonas mobilis entrapped into polyvinylalcohol (PVA) lens-shaped immobilizates in batch and continuous ethanol production.Cells, free or immobilized in PVA hydrogel-based lens-shaped immobilizates – LentiKats®, were cultivated on glucose medium in a 1 l bioreactor. In comparison with free cell cultivation, volumetric productivity of immobilized batch culture was nine times higher (43·6 g l−1 h−1). The continuously operated system did not improve the efficiency (volumetric productivity of the immobilized cells 30·7 g l−1 h−1).We demonstrated Z. mobilis capability, entrapped into LentiKats®, in the cost-efficient batch system of ethanol production.The results reported here emphasize the potential of bacteria in combination with suitable fermentation technology in industrial scale. The innovation compared with traditional systems is characterized by excellent long-term stability, high volumetric productivity and other technological advantages.