Conversion of volatile fatty acids and syngas to new products
It is desirable to turn complex organic waste into valuable products. In work package 3 two different strategies are explored to achieve this aim. The first strategy involves microorganisms which convert simple molecules like volatile fatty acids and alcohols into products such as acetate or caproate. These processes occur close to the thermodynamic equilibrium and the organisms have a relatively low growth rate. The second approach makes use of microorganisms that convert syngas into e.g. biofuels, acetic acid or butyric acid. Syngas is a valuable waste product from difficult degradable materials that are combusted by gasification at high temperatures and high pressure.
Microbial communities thriving at the thermodynamic limits have been scarcely explored. Nevertheless they must harbor highly efficient not yet understood energy conservation mechanisms or very energy efficient anabolic processes. Exploring the energy processes occurring at the thermodynamic limits can lead to new anabolic and catabolic functional systems that can eventually be used in strain constructions for industrial biotechnology. Concerning syngas, there are not many microorganisms known that are able to ferment syngas. Searching for new candidates that are able to perform this process would result in new possibilities for retrieving valuable products out of difficult degradable materials.