The challenging path to take biology into industrial production
Conference contribution, 2013
A sustainable society produces and uses goods without devastating natural resources and spoiling the environment. To reach such a desirable society, we have to be independent on fossil resources and instead use renewable raw materials. Nature offers many clues when solving problems arising during the transition towards sustainability and by using biotechnology, the technical use of biology, production of needed chemicals, materials, and fuels can be done. The only true renewable carbon based raw material is biomass of photosynthetic organisms (plants and algae), which uses solar light energy to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Different compounds in the biomass of these organisms can be extracted directly or further refined to products. The largest potential is provided by carbohydrates, since these can be converted in fermentation processes using microorganisms to a large range of products, from pharmaceuticals to biofuels. The microorganisms used (cell factories) can be improved natural producers or genetically modified organisms with capabilities of forming new compounds within their metabolism. Biotechnological production by fermentation is also scalable to large industrial scale. Industrial production gives additional challenges to cope with in biotechnological processes. Both the large scale and the complex nature of nutrient media provide some of the largest challenges. In this presentation, examples will be given on the research in the Industrial Biotechnology group at Chalmers using yeast and algae to counteract effects of toxic substances in nutrient sources.