Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Role of Microbes in Bio Boom - Part 2.

Bio Boom is here!

This is a great challenge for countries like Finland (a lot of forests)
and Central Europe (a lot of cattle farms).

What is common to both of them?

After the production of ethanol (and some other beneficial compounds 
(like lignosulfonate) from sulphite pulp process, very few biotechnical 
processes were applied to sulphate pulp processes.

Now it seems that ethanol can be an important product also in
forest industry.

And the cattle...?

Methane and hydrogen are important end-products of certain anaerobic
microbial processes. They were burned in previous times (I recall the
waste water treatment plant of Viikki, Helsinki, where no method to
collect these gases were available on 70's).

If we think the "end product of cows" we easily understand its value
in anaerobic gas production. Large farms in Central Europe are ready
 to apply these techniques for the production of burnable gases.

Third, a most important aspect too, may be easily forgotten: aerobic
waste water treatment (activated sludge process) in Finnish pulp &
paper mills. It has improved significantly the quality of such big rivers 
like Vuoksi and Kymijoki where big integrates of P&P industry
are situated.

- To be remembered: Bio Boom consists of many chemical and
technical innovations. These three issues, discussed above, are real
biotechnology. Biotechnology is a term for all processes which are
based on microbes (or their metabolic products like enzymes),
not only chemical reactions of non-living world. This means that
bioleaching of sulfide minerals is a real biotechnical process -
and makes it easier to understand the difficulties to carry it on.

The Role of Microbes in Biotech Boom, part 1.

The role of microbes in the energy production has been relatively small in older times. Burning of microbial biomass has not been a clever alternative because the tiny size of microbial cells (even billions of cells, 1 000 000 000, can be easily be suspended in one milliliter of water - all too slow to cultivate big lots of biomass) and their water content (drying would be too much energy-consuming procedure). Wood, in opposite, has been an excellent alternative, especially when the material has been dried enough to give positive net balance of energy.

The energy-containing metabolites of microbes, not the microbial cells themselves, have been the subject of research and development of energy production. Because the full-oxidized end-products of aerobic, oxygen-respiring micro-organisms, the fermentative microbes (like ethanol-producing yeasts) and anaerobic bacteria (like methane producers) have got a certain role in energy production. One big benefit of these applications are the non-expensive raw materials of metabolic routes like carbohydrates, manures and other stuff which has either been left from other processes or even regarded as a waste.

(- to be continued soon...)