Microbiology of Anaerobic Systems

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Research Topics

Anaerobic microorganisms, among them the oldest life-forms on Earth, display the most manifold metabolic pathways and lifestyles that have been ever invented by evolution, such as various mechanisms for energy conservation, carbon fixation, elemental cycling, fermentative conversion of organic matter and syntrophic interactions, enabling life on the thermodynamic edge. Anaerobic microbial communities play essential roles in biogeochemical cycles, natural attenuation of contaminated sites and various biotechnological processes, such as wastewater treatment, anaerobic digestion of organic waste and fermentative formation of valuable products.

The MicAS group studies the microbial ecology and physiology of anaerobic microbial communities in natural and engineered environments in order to identify microbial key players and their functions and to elucidate carbon and energy flows as well as microbial interactions. We aim at the biotechnological application of anaerobic microbiota, a deeper understanding of their functions in microbial ecosystem services, and novel insights into the ecophysiology of not yet cultured microbes (microbial dark matter).

In engineered systems such as anaerobic biorectors we develop microbiological strategies to optimize the production of biogas and other fermentation products by open mixed cultures (reactor microbiomes). The main objectives are i) to identify microbial parameters for process control and ii) to exploit novel feedstocks and microbial resources for the production of chemical building blocks and biofuels from renewable resources.

In environmental systems, we aim at the identification of microbial key players in biogeochemical cycles and contaminant degradation as well as the elucidation of the ecophysiological role of not yet cultured microbes.

Current research topics:

  • Biomethanation of hydrogen from excess electricity (Power-to-Gas)
  • Anaerobic biorefineries for the production of medium-chain carboxylates (lactate-based chain elongation, syngas-aided fermentation of biomass in open mixed cultures)
  • Fate of antibiotics and antibiotics resistance genes in agricultural biogas plants
  • Metagenome-based analysis of metabolic networks in anaerobic consortia
  • Microbial resource mining in anaerobic bioreactors (isolation of novel strains with interesting fermentation pathways)
  • Anaerobic bioreactors inspired by the gut system of wood-feeding insect larvae for improved valorization of lignocellulosic feedstock
  • Degradation of micropollutants in wastewater treatment (acesulfame as model compound)

MicAS February 2021

Technicians

Elke Häusler
Ute Lohse

Students and research
assistants

Sophie Elis Anderson
Rita Bhattacherjee
Sebastian Schulz

Guest scientist

Myra Afzal

Apprentices

Friederike Koppius
Jana Raab