Microbial Genomics||Systems Biology||Molecular Biophysics
The project seeks to assess the feasibility of engineering haloarchaeal species to make the process of converting non-edible (lignocellulosic) plant material into valuable commodities like fuels and plastics an economically sensible and profitable part of a growing bioeconomy. One of the most recent and exciting trends in this field is the use of solutes called ionic liquids (liquid salts) to help dissolve the plant material in ways that can be efficiently utilized by the microbial factories. There’s just one problem. While the ionic liquids to a fantastic job at dissolving the plant material, they inhibit the activity of most currently used bioprocessing microbes. Due to their adaptation for life in salty environments, we believe that the haloarchaea may prove to be a class of organism that can survive in ionic liquids, utilize the liberated plant material, and thereby provide a platform in which to engineer new microbial factories for lignocellulosic biofuel synthesis.