Industrial Biotechnology

In Industrial Biotechnology, we work with the use of biotechnology to produce chemicals, materials and energy, which means products that affect peoples living with respect to nutrition and health, energy, chemicals and materials. We work to contribute to the development of a bio-based, sustainable economy through various applications of industrial biology. By our research we want to contribute to a sustainable future developing climate smart technology.

A large number of important traditional and novel products will be produced by industrial scale biotech processes in the future. Significant growth of bio-based products is foreseen, especially in the field of chemical products, as bio-based production offers a possibility to move away from the use of petroleum. A key factor in this development is the availability of cheap and sustainable raw materials. In this perspective, plant cell wall material is receiving increasingly large interest.
The integration of different bio-based processes represents an important aspect of the development towards the bio-based economy. This integration will be realised through the construction of so-called biorefineries, aiming at optimizing the conversion of raw material to a palette of chemicals, fuels and materials and thereby minimizing the production of waste, and ensuring material and energy efficient processes.

To develop efficient cell factories for industrial biotechnology applications, a generic understanding of the interplay between the process and the microorganism is of utmost importance. Today, the opportunities given by systems biology mainly allow improved understanding of the complexity of the cell, but it does not by itself provide guidance on how to improve production processes. However, by gaining an understanding of the whole biotech process and the interplay between the different process steps, it is possible to define the cellular properties that must be modified by using systems biology approaches. The defined changes to reach goals such as improved yield and productivity in a process might only be achieved by extensive changes in the cellular metabolism, based on our understanding of its structure and regulation. Our research is focused using cell factories for production of both bulk chemicals, such as ethanol and biochemicals, and more complex molecules, such as bioactive molecules with high added value using robust and efficient microorganisms.

Enzymes that act on plant cell wall materials are important for biorefinery applications. We use these enzymes for enzymatic refining of plant cell wall material, which will include complete hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose, upgrading cell wall components and process aid in disintegrating wood polymers. An important part of our research is also to discover, develop and design enzymes to meet the process demands.

Emerging research activities in our group are related to the production biogas via anaerobic digestion and the implementation of bioelectrochemical systems for wastewater treatment and synthesis of chemicals. Such processing is important parts to design complete biorefinery concepts.

The only renewable sources of carbon are photosynthetic organisms; plants but also algae. As algal biomass has an underdeveloped potential as raw material, an additional aspect of our research is dedicated to developing cultivation technology and strains for efficient production of algal biomass as well as techniques to recover suitable products from both micro- and macroalgae.

Our research activities are focused around six different themes.
• Biorefineries
• Plant cell wall acting enzymes
• Industrial cell factories   
• Robust bioprocesses
• Valorisation of end of use biomass
• Algal biotechnology

Our vision is to be key players in the realisation of the bio-based economy: A society where renewable raw materials are used for sustainable production of chemicals, materials and fuels needed in our society.

Published: Mon 29 Dec 2014. Modified: Fri 18 Nov 2016