Friday, 6 July 2012

UK to be a Centre for Renewable Chemicals Using Aspergillus

The UK is investing £2.5 million into the development of a research unit to develop ways to recycle industrial waste and waste plant materials and turn it into useful chemicals and fuels (i.e. green chemicals) that will become increasingly important as the supply of oil begins to run out.

The Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC) at The University of York state on their website
The BDC offers a unique combination of internationally recognized analytical science, fast track plant breeding and novel extraction and processing technologies. Focused on business needs, we bridge the gap between laboratory development and commercial manufacture by providing open access scale-up processing facilities
Examples of their projects show how diverse the solutions offered can be:

  1. Aspergillus niger can grow on a wide range of industrial waste products, using it as food. The unit are  analysing the full genome of Aspergillus niger (already well used in industry) using computers to predict the best metabolic pathways to exploit to improve efficiency of the production of the many products already made using A. niger. Once this has been achieved they will try to generate new strains of the fungus to more accurately suit the range of different purposes it can be put to, and improve the efficiency with which it can turn waste into valuable commercial products.
  2. Use of high throughput generation and testing of new strains of the plant  Artemisia annua they have markedly increased the yield of the antimalarial drug that the plant makes naturally, helping developing countries fight malaria
  3. Treating discarded orange peel to release useful commercial chemicals instead of just dumping them in landfill waste sites
The UK government hope that projects such as this will help UK industry become a world leader in this rapidly developing future marketplace, and help reduce the amount of waste we currently throw away (industrial waste, food waste) leading to a better balanced environment - ultimately perhaps even replacing our current reliance on fossil fuels such as oil.

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