Day after day, legions of microorganisms work to produce energy from waste in biogas plants. Researchers from Bielefeld University’s Center for Biotechnology (CeBiTec) are taking a close look to find out which microbes do the best job. They are analysing the entire ge-netic information of the microbial communities in selected biogas plants up and down Germany.
Stained, they fluoresce under the microscope: a wide variety of microbes can be seen in a sample taken from a biogas plant. Researchers at Bielefeld University want to find out which ones do their job best.
From the beginning of 2013, the Californian Joint Genome Institute will undertake the sequencing required. The biocomputational analysis will be performed at CeBiTec. Not an easy task, since the data will be supplied in billions of fragments stemming in turn from hundreds of organisms. Piecing together this huge jigsaw puzzle will be painstaking work.
In Germany, there are more than 7,000 biogas plants which can supply over six million households with power. The plants are filled mostly with plant biomass like maize silage but also with agricultural waste materials like liquid manure and chicken manure. One of the key research questions is how the production of biogas can be optimised. For this reason, Bielefeld scientists Dr Alexander Sczyrba, Dr Andreas Schlüter, Dr Alexander Goesmann, Professor Dr Jens Stoye und Professor Dr Alfred Pühler want to know what microbes are responsible for the decomposition of biomass - and which of them do it best. “We are interested in discovering the microbiology that is really behind the processes going on in a biogas plant; what microor-ganisms play which role at which stage,” explains Andreas Schlüter, whose research at CeBiTec is in the field of biogas production.
The researchers have scheduled roughly two years for their project, in which also Bielefeld doctoral students of the Graduate Cluster in Industrial Biotechnology (CLIB) are involved. At the end, they hope to have discovered the optimal microbial community for biogas plants - and thus be in a position to make this process of generating energy even more efficient.Background
Ingo Lohuis | idw
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