Industrial Biotechnology – an interdisciplinary field

The goal of industrial or white biotechnology is to use microorganisms or enzymes for the synthesis of classical industrial products such as chemicals and fuels. Industrial biotechnology is comprised of several disciplines:

Square made from four different colored puzzle pieces described with the sub disciplines of industrial biotechnology.

Sustainable bioprocesses require sustainably available feedstocks

The group for industrial biotechnology focuses on the development of bioprocesses which are crucial for a sustainable circular bioeconomy. The goal is to produce value-added products such as bioplastics (e.g. PLA) or fuels (e-fuels) in a CO2-neutral and resource-efficient way.

For this reason, we use feedstocks that are based on CO2 and renewable energy, so called C1-feedstocks. These can be gaseous (e.g. synthesis gas: CO/H2/CO2) or liquid (methanol or formic acid) and can be made via chemical catalysis. Alternatively, synthesis gas can also be generated from non-food or feed biomass (biomass gasification). Coupled with natural microorganisms which convert these C1-feedstocks into various products such as alcohols or organic acids sustainable routes for products of the chemical industry or the transportation sector can be established.

Circular depiction with pictures for CO2 sources and renewable energy including descriptions of intermediate steps.

Acetogens: promising biocatalysts for industrial bioprocesses

Acetogens are a group of bacteria which can directly utilize C1-feedstocks for growth and metabolite production. The ability to convert C1-feedstocks with high carbon and energy efficiency makes acetogens a very interesting group of microorganisms for application in industrial bioprocesses. Therefore, the group for industrial biotechnology focuses on the exploitation and application of these fascinating microorganisms. To that end, we apply microbial strain development to genetically alter acetogens (e.g. to enable synthesis of novel products). In parallel, we develop continuous bioprocesses such as gas fermentation processes for efficient C1-feedstock conversion. Coupled with methodology from systems biology (e.g. -omics technologies or metabolic modeling) we create a better understanding of acetogen physiology and metabolism, which serves as starting point for iterative strain development efforts.