Life in its essence is made up by the interplay of living matter with their environment, connected via maintenance, growth, replication, and active thermodynamic differentiation. If life wants to be understood and used for technical purposes, it is mandatory to understand the cell as its minimal unit beyond the bulk of heterogeneous populations. The research of this platform addresses questions regarding the functional boundaries of this unit with microfluidic technologies. Exploiting the physical laws at the microscale, we aim at revealing biological mechanisms that conduct the physiology of the microbial cell and its interplay with the cellular environment. The obtained knowledge enables a rational redesign of life, finally towards applications in key technologies for new materials and energy carriers.
There are always projects available within our research themes (see below). Projects are interesting for students with a background in biotechnology, biochemical engineering, biochemistry or related.
Microscale analysis of bioconversion in presence of sorbents
Despite the growing interest in the application of sorption-enhanced bioprocesses, such as addition of activated carbon to bioreactors for improved bioproduction or pollutant removal, the mechanisms of sorbent-mediated chemical catchment and subsequent transfer of the reactant to the bacteria are still in the void. This applies, in particular, for technical scenarios where substrate concentrations are below threshold values for growth, maintenance, gene expression, as well as biocatalyst affinity and thus impair the performance of the process. By using microfluidic bioreactors that facilitate stringent environmental control, bacteria can be brought into close proximity or direct physical contact to sorbents loaded with substrate in order to judge on the mode of mass transfer. Based on time-lapse microscopy, growth and gene expression of individual bacterial cells brought in contact with adsorbents with different surface chemistry can be tested.