Microbiology of Anaerobic Systems


Anaerobic microorganisms include the oldest life-forms on Earth and display the most manifold metabolic pathways and lifestyles that have ever arisen in evolution, for example, the various respiratory and fermentative forms of energy conservation, mechanisms of carbon fixation, or the syntrophic degradation pathways that enable life at the edge of the thermodynamic limit. 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 investigates the ecology and physiology of anaerobic microbial communities in natural and engineered ecosystems with the aim of utilizing the metabolic activities of anaerobic microbes for biotechnological applications as well as elucidating the ecophysiological role of not yet cultured microbes and their significance for ecosystem functions.

In engineered systems such as anaerobic digesters and anaerobic bioreactors, we develop strategies for process optimization. The goals are to identify microbial parameters for process control and to explore novel feedstocks and microbial resources for the production of chemicals and fuels from renewable resources. In environmental systems, we investigate the role of anaerobic microorganisms in biogeochemical cycles and in the degradation of organic pollutants.

  • Anaerobic biorefineries for the material and energetic use of biomass and organic residues
  • Microbial chain elongation and syngas fermentation for the production of biobased platform chemicals
  • Tapping microbial resources by isolating novel strains with interesting fermentation pathways
  • Metagenome-based analysis and modeling of metabolic networks in anaerobic consortia
  • Engineered microbial consortia for optimized anaerobic conversion of lignocellulose to medium-chain carboxylates
  • Mitigating propionate and butyrate inhibition in anaerobic digestion by promoting direct interspecies electron transfer
  • Biomethanation of green hydrogen (Power-to-Gas)
  • Anaerobic bioreactors inspired by the gut system of wood-feeding insect larvae for improved valorization of lignocellulosic feedstock
  • Biotransformation of antibiotics and spread of antibiotic resistance genes in agricultural biogas plants
  • Biodegradation of anthropogenic micropollutants in wastewater treatment plants (acesulfame K as model compound)

MicAS April 2022

Students and research

Laura Dix
Anna-Lena Hack
Marie Cäcilie Schmidt
Vranda Sharma

Current Projects

Helmholtz research program Changing Earth - Sustaining Our Future - Topic 7: Sustainable bioeconomy - harnessing the potential of nature

PhD college FATE - Fate and effects of antibiotics from sources to sinks: Bridging the scale from molecular level processes to large-scale observations in engineered and natural systems

ERANet-LAC: Valorisation of agricultural residues via anaerobic digestion: from biogas to carboxylates (carboxAiD), BMBF FKZ 01DN19108

ERACoBioTech: Synthetic landfill microbiomes for enhanced anaerobic digestion to biogas (SYNBIOGAS), SMWK FKZ 100386143

ERACoBioTech: Engineering microbial communities for the conversion of lignocellulose into medium-chain carboxylates (Cell4Chem), SMWK FKZ 100572058

Development of production facilities for volatile organic acids in industrial biogas plants (Acidogenesis Manipulator) - Subproject: Reduction of inhibition effects of propionic and butyric acid during methanation by promoting direct interspecies electron transfer, BMWi (ZIM) FKZ 16KN070166

Joint project: Biomethane & peat substitute from poplar wood - Phase 2; Subproject 2: Microbiological analysis of the fermentation tests (PaplGas2); FNR FKZ 2221MT017B

Completed Projects

INNO INDIGO IPP3 S&T Biobased Energy: Development of efficient biomass conversion routes for biofuel production and utilisation (CONVER-B), BMBF FKZ 01DQ17016

IBÖM02: Biobased caproic and caprylic acid – Production, separation, marketing strategy (CapAcidy), BMBF FKZ 031B0389B

Monitoring of biogas plants by analysing stable isotope ratios (ISOTOP-BIOGAS), FNR FKZ 22013013

Sustainable bioeconomy in Brazil: Bioenergy from biogas using various types of waste substrates from the Brazilian bioethanol industry (iNoPa)

Trace element supply by energy crops - optimised process biology in agricultural biogas plants (NiCo), FNR FKZ 22019214