Whole cells of Zymomonas mobilis, immobilised on pectin beads, were stablised by curing in a mixture of 0.2 M CaCl2 · 2H2O and Na2B4O7 · 10H2O for 24 h at 4°C. Ethanol fermentation was studied using different glucose concentrations (50-200 g/litre) by these immobilised beads. The kinetics of this process was studied in a glucose step-feeding system with different total glucose concentrations (150 and 200 g/litre) in a specially designed shake flask. Immobilised whole cells were also used for ethanol fermentation in an expanded bed bioreactor and its performance characteristics were compared with those of a regular batch mechanically stirred tank bioreactor. Fermentation rates and ethanol yields were higher in the expanded bed bioreactor system than in the batch mechanically agitated stirred tank bioreactor. The stabilised pectin beads were damaged less in the expanded bioreactor than in the regular batch stirred tank reactor. Copyright © 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.