A team of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Tilman Lamparter from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT is investigating how the absorption of light alters the three-dimensional structure of phytochrome molecules and how this effects the behaviour of plantcells. The researchers use bacteria with phytochromes that have largely unknown functions.
In order to achieve the sought-after shift towards sustainable regenerative energy supply, researchers around the world are focusing on the conversion of solar energy into hydrogen and carbon compounds using artificial chemical systems. They aim to achieve much more efficient photosynthesis than plants have. Other scenarios foresee improving the energy balance of photosynthesis by modifying the photosynthesis system.
Unicellular, aquatic dinoflagellates are masters of what is known as nested symbiosis. They engulf chloroplast-carrying organisms which enable them to photosynthesize sunlight. While this type of symbiotic relationship enables dinoflagellates to survive, the toxins produced by algal blooms, which typically involve dinoflagellates, can have a deadly effect on marine life. This in turn can also affect organisms that consume marine life – including humans. Researchers at the University of Stuttgart are studying the variety and complexity of such symbiotic life forms.
Microalgae are a real treasure trove. The cosmetics food and chemical industries already use many algal metabolic products and it is envisaged that algae will become an important regenerative source of energy in the future. Prof. Dr. Clemens Postens Bioprocess Engineering team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT focuses on bioprocess development and is investigating the effect of different diets and the dilution of light on algal product yields.
The potential of Microalgae cannot yet be optimally used on the large scale. The bioprocess engineer Dr. Rosa Rosello and her team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT are investigating the conditions under which different microalgae species can optimally grow in photobioreactors and lead to high product yields. It is all a question of light and shade.
Microalgae are among the most promising sources of sustainable, carbon-neutral biofuels for the future. They are already being used as feedstock for producing biogas, biodiesel, bioethanol and kerosene, but the associated production methods consume a great deal of energy and are rather costly. Dr. Nikolaos Boukis from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is working on the development of a sophisticated, thermochemical process with an energy balance that promises to improve the situation.
Chemical model systems can be used to study the processes of plant photosynthesis with the goal of tapping sunlight as a source for covering the energy needs of the future. Researchers from Ulm have now developed an artificial leaf based on a manganese-vanadium oxide catalyst which can effectively carry out the critical photocatalytic reaction of splitting water molecules into hydrogen ions and molecular oxygen.
The project Bio-based polyamides through fermentation undertaken by members of the BiopolymersBiomaterials Cluster started in early 2009 and has the goal of using biotechnological methods to produce materials as the basis for polyamides with new properties.
Renewable resources not only provide the field of biotechnology with interesting possibilities for the development of new materials. Scientists from the Department of Chemical Material Science at the University of Konstanz have now succeeded in chemically synthesising a new type of plastic from plant oils.
Rhodospirillum rubrum bacteria have long attracted the interest of biotechnologists due to their ability to produce large quantities of pigments. Microbiologist Hartmut Grammel from Biberach University of Applied Sciences and scientists from the Magdeburg-based Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems are studying the bacterias suitability for the fixation of CO2 with the distant objective of producing organic materials with bacterial CO2-consuming enzymes in a cell-free environment that requires only small quantities of energy.
In cooperation with the research unit of the German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water (DVGW), KIT researchers have built a pilot plant in which biogas produced by fermenting residual organic materials can be upgraded to synthetic methane (synthetic SNG). Biobased methane is not only a sustainable energy source for the heating and transport sectors, but also opens up new opportunities for temporary storage of renewable energies.
In these times of changing climate sustainable thinking and the growing desire to become less dependent on crude oil the interest in biobased plastics is growing. Biobased plastics can be either entirely or partially produced from renewable resources using biotechnological methods.
There is a steady stream of people both Germans and foreigners going in and out of Eckhard Dinjus laboratory at the Institute of Technical Chemistry at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT. The 66-year-old chemist developed the bioliq method that is set to become an export hit due to its decentralised-centralised approach. Many years before the pilot plant started operating people from near and far including China had expressed their interest in the process.
In view of dwindling oil reserves and ongoing climate change, microalgae are gaining in importance as suppliers of energy. The major advantage of microalgae is that they can be used to produce CO2-neutral fuels without competing with food production. However, despite intensive efforts, the economic production of biofuels from microalgae is not yet possible. This dossier will present and discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with the use of microalgae for energy production.
Every single biotechnological production process is tested in shake flasks before it is gradually scaled up to eventually produce tons of platform chemicals or biofuels in cubic-metre sized fermenters. Prof. Dr. Sybille Ebert teaches the theory and practice of bioprocess engineering in the form of lectures and practical laboratory exercises to students at the Biberach University of Applied Sciences. The trained chemist and mathematician was appointed to the endowed chair of process engineering in biotechnology in summer 2013. The professorship is part of the university’s Industrial Biotechnology bachelor degree course.
Succinic acid could well become an important raw material for the plastics industry if it is possible to produce the acid biotechnologically and cost-effectively. A research project focusing on the biotechnological production of succinic acid under the leadership of BASF SE has now been granted funding by the German Ministry of Education and Research.
Plants cannot see but they can perceive the quantity and quality of light. As they have evolved plants have developed numerous molecular photodetectors such as phytochromes. Phytochromes can detect changes in the light situation. The undergrowth of forests thus manages to grow towards the few patches of sunlight that the phytochromes can detect. Researchers have long puzzled over how phytochromes transmit information about the light level into the nucleus and enable plants to react to changing light situations by altering the activity of specific genes. Four years ago a group of researchers led by Prof. em. Dr. Eberhard Schäfer clarified the principle underlying the transport of phytochrome A into the nucleus. Now the team led by Schäfer and Dr. Tim Kunkel has achieved the same success with phytochrome B.
The Institute of Biochemical Engineering at Technische Universität Braunschweig (Technical University (TU) Braunschweig) is a member of the Biopolymers/Biomaterials cluster and, as such, is involved in two projects to produce diaminopentane and succinic acid using optimised microorganisms with the aim of establishing a basis from which to provide industry with new materials made from renewable resources.
Since the end of July 2008 the Biomaterials laboratory of the Empa in St. Gallen has been an official member of the BioLAGO BioRegion. We talked with Dr. Manfred Zinn about how the researchers find materials with the desired properties.
Microbial cells long gave researchers the impression that they were in a state of complete disorder. Prof. Dr. Peter Graumann from the University of Freiburg investigates cell division in bacteria and knows that even microbes are highly organised.
Algae are rich in valuable substances and can be grown easily, which makes them promising candidates for the sustainable production of raw materials. The work done by Prof. Dr. Stefan Mecking at the University of Konstanz in cooperation with plant physiologist Prof. Dr. Peter Kroth, confirms this. The two scientists have developed a method to transform algae oil into high-quality chemical raw materials which can, amongst other things, be used for the production of polymers. This opens up new possibilities for the use of algae as a raw material source beyond just a substitute for crude oil.
Alternative engines and fuels for cars of the future still lack technical maturity and are not yet competitive. In the short to medium term, the only way to replace fossil fuel will be other fossil fuels – compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Biodiesel and ethanol are and will remain for the foreseeable future the only renewable resource alternatives to fossil fuel. As is the case for any other technology, the development of second-generation (2G) biogenic fuels requires a lot of time, money and know-how.
Rhizobia soil bacteria live in symbiosis with legumes and are masters of ammonia synthesis thanks to an enzyme called nitrogenase. Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle from the Institute of Biochemistry at the University of Freiburg is studying how the enzyme accomplishes this energy-intensive process and why it sometimes also converts other compounds with an amazing result. Einsle elucidated a mechanism by which the enzyme converts toxic carbon monoxide into hydrocarbons.
Dr. Bianca Hermann from the University of Freiburg specialises in multi-haem enzymes, and investigates the enzymes’ structure and reaction mechanisms. She has clarified the enzymes’ crystal structure and reaction mechanisms and found out why the bacterial MccA enzyme complex can reduce sulphur-containing substances such as sulphites up to a hundred times faster than other enzymes.
The research group led by the biochemist Professor Michael Brunner at Heidelberg University is investigating the molecular mechanisms of the 24-h circadian rhythm of Neurospora crassa. The researchers have been able to show how the fungus is able to maintain the day-night rhythm even in the presence of disturbing light signals at night.