Synthetic anaerobic biofilms

(M.Sc. Josha Herzog)

Special anaerobic microorganisms are able to convert synthesis gases from industrial processes or from the gasification of organic residues into organic acids and alcohols, which have a wide range of applications as energy carriers or in industrial material production.

Since the H2/CO2 or CO metabolizing microorganisms can only produce short-chain organic compounds, the combination with other anaerobic microorganisms offers a suitable solution, which can form longer-chain acids and alcohols from these compounds as part of a synthetic coculture in a bioreactor. However, the achievable cell densities in the suspension cultures usually used are very low, so that large reactor volumes are required for the microbial conversion of synthesis gases.

Biofilm reactors can be an alternative, since no further growth of the anaerobic microorganisms needs to take place here if high cell densities in thin biofilms are achievable.  The aim of this research project is the cross-scale design, fabrication and analysis of synthetic anaerobic biofilms in a membrane reactor in order to produce longer-chain organic compounds efficiently from synthesis gases with a defined, spatially resolved co-cultivation of these anaerobic microorganisms.

The research project is a close cooperation with the Chair of Physics of Synthetic Biological Systems (Prof. Simmel) within the Munich Multiscale Biofabrication Network (Munich BioFab), a consortium of scientists from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich (LMU), as well as from the MPI of Biochemistry and the Helmholtz Zentrum München.