1/2011

Energy from superbacteria

Matti Kannisto ja Matti Karp

Professor Matti Karp's (right) group conducts
research into bioenergy production from
genetically engineered microbes. They
are attempting to create fuel-producing
microbes with a higher energy density
than ethanol. The microbes are bred in
a fermenter at the Department of
Chemistry and Bioengineering.
Biotechnology student Matti Kannisto
is writing his MSc (Tech) thesis within
the group.

Researchers at the Department of Chemistry and Bioengineering of TUT are developing a supermicrobe. Once they have trained this little helper into tolerating higher temperatures, they'll have created an extremely efficient, waste-eating microbe that produces hydrogen and ethanol.  

The research group led by Professor Matti Karp has been studying this promising microbe with microbiological methods for several years. The group has recently succeeded in decoding the entire bacterial genome, i.e. all the hereditary material possessed by the organism.

This genetic information is needed now that the researchers are also using bioinformatics methods to investigate the bacteria. The group is attempting to harness the power of the bacteria and turn them into efficient hydrogen and ethanol plants that feed on cellulose-based wastes, such as those from forest industry.

Tireless work horse

"We want the bacteria to eat their food and turn it into biofuel instead of wasting their energy. Now that we've unravelled the bacterial genome, we can, for example, disable functions that would cause the bacteria to waste energy or eat the hydrogen they produce."

The bacteria are currently functioning as planned in a temperature of 67 degrees Celsius. However, an increase of ten more degrees is needed to enable the bacteria to thrive at 78 degrees, the boiling point of ethanol.

The result would be a tireless work horse that could simultaneously produce hydrogen and distil ethanol without leaving its breeding chamber. This would significantly cut the costs of bioenergy production, as no separate distillation process is required.

WHO: Matti Karp

  • Professor, Department of Chemistry and Bioengineering at TUT
  • Before joining TUT in 2004, Karp worked as a research fellow and professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Food Chemistry of the University of Turku.
  • Is currently heading the Degree Programme in Biotechnology and the International Master's Degree Programme in Science and Bioengineering at TUT.
  • Primary research interests: microbe-assisted production of bioenergy, biotechnological applications of genetically engineered microbes
  • Publications: Karp has authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific papers published in international refereed journals.

 

The Department of Chemistry and Bioengineering has consistently shifted its research focus toward the production of bioenergy from different waste materials. Another key line of research of Karp's team aims at developing viable methods for producing biobutanol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professor Karp becomes honorary member of the Association of Microbiologists of India (AMI)

Professor Matti Karp from the Department of Chemistry and Bioengineering at Tampere University of Technology (TUT) has been appointed as honorary member of AMI, the Association of Microbiologists of India. Prof. Karp, whose research interests focus on bioenergy, was one of the lead speakers at the AMI 2010 conference hosted in India in December.

"It's an honour to be invited to join such an esteemed scientific organization. The Association's members represent the highest level of scientific competence in their fields. I feel that this appointment is not only an acknowledgement of my research career but also of the microbiological and biotechnological research conducted in Finland," says Professor Karp. His research projects range from molecular biology to industrial biotechnology and microbiology.

The Association of Microbiologists of India established in 1938 is one of the oldest and most reputed scientific organizations of the country. The Association holds a National convention annually at one of the well established centres of microbiology in the country. The Association's 51st convention was arranged in December 2010 and it brought together approximately 1,300 microbiologists, scientists, and other professionals to discuss the latest developments in the field. The Association currently has some 3,500 members.

Read more about AMI 

 

 Text and photo: Aila Välikoski

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