Microbial fermentation of renewable biomass is a very attractive sustainable alternative for the production of chemicals that are now oil-based. Bacteria, yeast or fungi can convert sugars present in plant material into organic acids that can be used as building blocks for products such as bioplastics. In our research, we aimed at developing a novel bacterial ‘work horse’ capable of making green chemical building blocks at temperatures of around 55°C
(‘thermophilic’). The use of thermophiles can lower production costs, which is necessary to make green chemicals economically feasible. The challenge with such thermophilic bacteria is that they are often difficult to handle in genetic engineering, which is necessary to improve the production and purification of the product. In our project we isolated such an organism, called Bacillus smithii, from a compost heap and developed methods for its genetic engineering. At the moment we are continuing the study of the metabolism of this bacterium to better understand it and apply it to make green chemicals.