Monday, May 16, 2011

A. Niger Is an Industrial Slave and Workhorse, Other Microbes


Aspergillus Niger (A. Niger) is a fungus that contains industrial-strength enzymes capable of transforming much of modern industry. Global markets for potential products from A. Niger are priced well into the $billions. Improved capacity for breaking down polysaccharides into simple sugars alone -- for fermentation fuels and feedstock for sugar fuel cells -- can transform much of the world economy. Microbes have been around for over 3 billion years. They are hard workers with a lot of useful tools in their toolboxes.
A. niger is an industrial workhorse, with different strains efficient in producing polysaccharide-degrading enzymes (particularly amylases, pectinases, and xylanases) or organic acids (mainly citric acid) in high amounts. (As of 2007, the global market for citric acid was estimated to be approximately $1.2 billion with more than 500,000 tons produced annually by fermentation.) The production process involving A. niger is thus a well understood fungal fermentation process. _GCC

Japanese researchers aim to use synthetic biology to re-engineer protists, fungi, algae, and more, to overturn the established energy and industrial order. These scientists at the RIKEN Institute in Japan aim to give the Venter Institute a run for its money.

Most industrial uses of microbes utilise "pure cultures" of specific strains of microbe to avoid "contamination." But symbiotic groupings of microbes in the same reactor -- as well as "staged relays" of microbes using specific sequences of feedstock treatment -- may prove to be far more productive and economic than bioreactors built around isolated, pure strains.

Interestingly, symbiotic "microbial mats" may have been the prototypes for more complexed multi-cellular animals and plants which utilise specialised tissue types. Any industrial engineers contemplating the use of microbes in his industrial processes, would do well to consider the phenomenon of microbial symbiosis.



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