Isolation of novel thermophilic carboxydotrophic microbes for syngas bioconversion

Project

Isolation of novel thermophilic carboxydotrophic microbes for syngas bioconversion

Syngas is a flexible feedstock that can act as substrate for microbial fermentation. In this project we aim to isolate novel microbes, from thermophilic environments, that are capable of utilizing syngas and produce high value compounds.

A great challenge for society is to reduce carbon emissions and identify sustainable and clean means for producing energy and commodities. One of the most promising feedstocks that could substitute fossil resources is biomass wastes (e.g. municipal solid wastes and industrial off-gases). Reuse of these wastes is the basis of a circular and bio-based economy. An emerging technology is their gasification into synthesis gas or syngas (mixture of CO, H2 and/or CO2). Syngas can subsequently act as substrate for microbial fermentation into valuable compounds.

Figure. A promising process chain for the conversion of recalcitrant wastes to products, combining gasification and syngas fermentation.
Figure. A promising process chain for the conversion of recalcitrant wastes to products, combining gasification and syngas fermentation.

Carbon monoxide, the main component of syngas, has a reputation as a silent killer since it is highly toxic towards the vast majority of organisms. Despite its toxicity, it can be a favorable energy and carbon source for specific carboxydotrophic (CO-utilizing) microbes. From a biotechnological perspective, this is very interesting since these microbes can be employed in industrial processes for the production of biochemicals and biofuels.

Aim

In this project we want to explore marine hydrothermal sediments for novel carboxydotrophic microbes. These environments remain fairly underexplored. Nevertheless, they can host microbes that are well adapted to high CO concentrations, high temperature and pressure, which can prove to be excellent candidates for syngas fermentation.

Work in this project includes:

  • Metagenomic characterisation of microbial communities in marine hydrothermal sediments
  • Enrichment/isolation of novel thermophilic CO-utilizing microbes that produce valuable compounds, by using high-throughput cultivation and isolation methods
  • Characterisation of isolates by a combination of state-of-the-art omic approaches (genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics)
  • Cultivation in CSTR-bioreactors to steer microbial specialisation and fine-tune the production

About this project

This project is part of the Perspectief Programme MicroSynC (Novel Approaches for Microbial Syngas Conversion to Chemical Building Blocks), funded by NWO-TTW.