It is important to produce L(+)-lactic acid at the lowest cost possible for lactic acid to become a candidate monomer material for promising biodegradable polylactic acid. In an effort to develop a high-rate bioreactor that provides high productivity along with a high concentration of lactic acid, the performance of membrane cell-recycle bioreactor (MCRB) was investigated via experimental studies and simulation optimization. Due to greatly increased cell density, high lactic acid productivity, 21.6 g L-1 h(-1), was obtained in the reactor. The lactic acid concentration, however, could not be increased higher than 83 g/L. When an additional continuous stirred tank reactor (CSTR) was attached next to the MCRB a higher lactic acid concentration of 87 g/L was produced at significant productivity expense. When the two MCRBs were connected in series, 92 g/L lactic acid could be produced with a productivity of 57 g L-1 h(-1),the highest productivity among the reports of L(+)-lactic acid that obtained lactic acid concentration higher than 85 g/L using glucose substrate. Additionally, the investigation of lactic acid fermentation kinetics resulted in a successful model that represents the characteristics of lactic acid fermentation by Lactobacillus rhamnosus. The model was found to be applicable to most of the existing data with MCRBs and was in good agreement with Levenspiel's product-inhibition model, and the Luedeking-Piret equation for product-formation kinetics appeared to be effective in representing the fermentation kinetics. There was a distinctive difference in the production potential of cells (cell-density-related parameter in Luedeking-Piret equation) as lactic acid concentration increases over 55 g/L, and this finding led to a more precise estimation of bioreactor performance. (C) 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.