Bioprocessing Research Group

 

About

 

Microbes play a cardinal role in all life processes on Earth. Microbes are the origin of life and at the basis of many food chains. They are also important in the digestion of food in higher animals. Many industrial food production processes are based on microbial fermentation: yoghurt, cheese, beer, wine and even fuel grade ethanol are made by microbial fermentation. Bioprocessing is also at the root of natural nutrient recycling through composting and the basis for wastewater and waste processing.

Bioprocessing is also the most effective way to capture solar energy. Most of our energy needs are provided by solar energy captured in plant and microbial biomass, although mostly fossilized as coal, oil and natural gas. These reserves of fossilized fuels are dwindling and energy production from these is unsustainable as combustion results in a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and thereby global warming.

Agriculture holds the key to supplying our energy needs by turning solar energy into biomass, thereby recycling carbon. While we have the knowledge to capture solar power through agriculture, our current technology to convert plant biomass into liquid fuels is barely economical.

The aim of the Bioprocessing Group is to develop methodology to use microbes to convert plant biomass into liquid fuels and to add further value to byproducts to make microbial conversion of plant biomass more economical. Research in this group focuses on using fungi to convert the main component of plants, lignocellulosic material into ethanol. Research is also focused on the microbial beneficiation of food processing co-products to add value. Such processing can add much value and lead to major savings compared with conventional reprocessing

 

Lab scale fungal fermentation

Lab scale fungal fermentation of corn fiber to ethanol.

Thin stillage

Converting thin stillage to value-added fungal protein.

Corn stover

Corn stover - a potential source for lignocellulosic ethanol.