Graphen 2D Photo: Seagul/Pixabay
​At Chalmers 2D-Tech center researchers utilize graphene to extract the biofuels from cell factories and try to optimize a method for extraction of biofuels in larger scale.​ Photo: Seagul/Pixabay

Graphene can become a tool for biofuel extraction

At Chalmers 2D-Tech center researchers utilize graphene to extract the biofuels from cell factories and try to optimize a method for extraction of biofuels in larger scale. What could we in the energy field learn from this new technique? We had an email chat with Dr Santosh Pandit, at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering. He is an expert in energy transitions. His research focuses on graphene antibacterial coatings for biomedical as well as industrial applications.​

What is your research about?
Currently many biotechnologists are trying to produce Biofuel and many pharmaceutical compounds from genetically engineered cell factories such as bacteria and yeasts. These cell factories can produce such biofuel, chemical compounds for example by using sugar but could not excrete to external environment by themselves. Hence, we need to extract them from cells. Current extraction method needs toxic chemicals to damage such cells to extract the intracellular compound produced by these cell factories. Here we are planning to use nanoparticles containing vertical graphene spikes which could partly tear the cell membrane to leak-out such intracellular compounds without totally damaging the cells in cell factories. This approach will be doubly beneficial, which gives the re-utilization of graphene coated nanomaterials several times and microbial cells after interaction with graphene will leak out the biofuels and possibly reach back to normal metabolic stage and start producing biofuels again. This will make this process more sustainable and reduce the use of toxic chemical in biotech industries”.

Your research on graphen and biofuels a part of the new center for research on two-dimensional materials, 2D-Tech. 

Santosh Pandit PhDCan you tell us something about this?
In the 2D-Tech consortium we are jointly working with Bio-Petrolia, which is startup company, having various cell factories with potential to produce biofuels and pharmaceuticals in large scale. We will utilize graphene to extract the biofuels from these cell factories and try to optimize our method for online extraction of biofuels in larger scale which could be useful for larger biotech as well as Pharma industries”.

What has your research found? 
Now we are at the primary stage. However, our preliminary results are exiting and driving us forward to utilize this nanotechnological method for the biofuels extraction from microbial cell factories”.

With your results, you highlight new opportunities for biofuel production. 

Who could benefit from your research?
Since our approach will be sustainable and ecofriendly, primary beneficiaries will be biotech and pharmaceutical industries who are using cell factories to produce such chemicals. We believe that our approach will be cost effective by decreasing the extraction time and cost that needs in current methods. That will probably reduce the overall price of such biofuels and chemical compounds for end users, which are general public”.

How can these materials be used in the production of biofuels? 
Graphene is lipophilic material and are known to interact with the microbial cell membrane. We have already seen the evidence of the interaction between graphene nanoflakes and microbial cell membrane and protrude intracellular materials. These excellent behaviors of graphene will help us to extract the intracellular biofuels or chemicals from microbial cell factories”. 

What are you and your colleagues hoping for? 
In long term we are hoping to develop facile and strategic methods which can be used to extract intracellular biofuels from cell factories in larger industrial scale replacing the currently used toxic chemicals to completely damage microbial cells to extract the intracellular chemicals”. 

Do you have any insights that might be interesting to tell us in the energy field?
“Currently biofuels are getting much more attention due to the raising concern in environmental sustainability. Here microbial cell factories are providing the excellent platform to produce such energy associated chemicals. With the advancement in the science and technology, there is lots of improvement in the large-scale production of biofuels by using microbial cells, that is quite exciting and give us hope to replace the non-sustainable energy sources with bio-based energy in near future”.

What is the next step?
Next step is the optimization of graphene coatings which could efficiently extract the intracellular biofuels while being minimally harmful to cells and design online biofuel extraction system which can be useful for biotech industries”, Santosh Pandit concludes. 

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Santosh Pandit

By: Ann-Christien Nordin




Published: Mon 27 Apr 2020.