More than 32 Million tons of plastic waste end up in our environment per year. Most of it is non-degradable polyethylene, produced from about 8% of the global mineral oil resources. Researchers of the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology develop new biotechnological solutions to substitute critical processes. In the EU-funded project ROBOX, acib’s partners Uni Maastricht and Chemstream from Belgium have developed an approach to produce polyethylene biologically and sustainably from plant extracts. Enzyme-engineering can help to produce plastic without the use of harmful solvents.
The conventional treatment of wood in order to increase its hydrophobicity implies disadvantages that could be avoided when using environmentally-friendly processes. New methods that are increasingly being investigated use enzymes, like laccases, lipases and peroxidases in order to graft various molecules onto the wood surface to alter its properties.
Many bio-plastic bags have no place in the garbage. They dissolve too slowly in oxygen-deficient environments like biogas plants and when incinerated they are a burden to the environment. Enzymes offer a solution to this problem, accelerating degradation and avoid emissions. In the long run, the aim is to reduce plastic mountains and replace conventional packaging by bio-based Polymers.
The contamination of chicken eggs with fipronil led to a Europe-wide outcry in 2017. Although this specific case was not in compliance with current regulations, other treatments of hatching eggs with hazardous substances are still common. Contaminations of the eggshells with potentially animal-pathogenic microorganisms require fumigation with toxic chemicals for efficient breeding. Researchers evaluated an alternative decontamination method that is based on bacterial metabolites and showed that it is as efficient as conventional methods.
Enzymes are the tiny helpers of industrial biotechnology. Despite their microscopic size, they need to be tough and diligent because we want them to catalyze a broad range of reactions, ideally with the speed of light for ever after. In reality, however, many enzymes are like sensitive creatures, who need most careful attention and special treats to get their nicest behavior. Otherwise they might fade away like a tender flower in the blinking sun… and send the biotechnologists into terrible trouble. One strategy to find frugal enzymes is to look at thermophilic organisms. They sometimes harbor a treasure of more stable proteins because they are used to withstand somewhat unfriendly conditions such as high temperatures.
First of all, welcome in 2018 and a happy new year full of interesting success stories of biotech! Hopefully, you had a good time with your family and friends and found some time to relax? Certainly, many of us also enjoyed a colorful fireworks display to get into the new year. But – as we all know – fireworks are causing air pollution.
Plastic – the material of our time – is omnipresent. As the production is steadily increasing, its recycling lags behind. What if enzymes like esterases could make a change? While bringing about a sustainable life style will not get around reducing plastic usage, responsible resource management also necessitates the implementation of circular economy. As for that, the European Union established the Circular Economy Package. It made plastic one of the five priorities to be targeted and calls for novel and improved recycling processes. And, (bio)-chemical recycling using esterases might just be the method to boost our resource efficiency.
Yeast cells are important workhorses for the “green” production of various chemicals and proteins. In many cases the biotechnological industry favours the secretive production of their target compounds, because of lower costs for purification and less complicated downstream processing. But the way from an intracellularly produced protein through the cellular secretion machinery to the outside of the cell is very long and hides numerous obstacles. Researchers all over the world are looking for methods to overcome these hurdles – so do acib researchers.
Microorganisms for energy – does it work? And how could this be connected with CO2 conversion? Microorganisms particularly gained interest in carbon capture and utilization research due to the ability to convert CO2 to a broad range of possible valuable products and fuels. Application of such microorganisms has become highly attractive as several different strains of pure as well as mixed cultures of microorganisms are suitable for application in biofuel and biochemical generation.