Australian Centre for Water
and Environmental Biotechnology

AWMC Seminar Program: Dr Frauke Kracke & Dr Nils Averesch

Integrated bio-electrochemical systems for the production of fuels and chemicals from CO2 (Frauke)

Abstract: Microbial electrosynthesis, the process in which microbes use electrons from electrodes for CO2 reduction, offers a combined solution for two of world’s most pressing challenges: On one hand, the technology provides a platform for storage of renewables by converting electric energy into chemical energy; On the other hand, it enables an alternative, CO2-neutral way for the production of currently fossil-fuel-derived chemicals. Even though the research community has made major progress in understanding and advancing microbial electrosynthesis, the process currently remains limited by the low electron uptake rates of the microbes. My project aims to overcome these limitation by uncoupling the electrochemical reaction from the microbial metabolism.

By using the approach of directly integrating inorganic catalysis with microbial production we seek to access the best of both worlds: High current densities and efficiencies of inorganic electrodes and high selectivity of the microbial metabolism. In a joint project between the Jaramillo and the Spormann lab under the Global Climate & Energy Project of Stanford University, we develop suitable materials, reactor designs and microbial catalysts for the envisioned process of bio-inorganic production of value added compounds from CO2 and electricity. In this talk, I will specifically focus on some exciting progress we have made using highly bio-compatible, earth-abundant, transition metal catalysts for in situ hydrogen evolution.

Bio: I’m a biochemical engineer by training and I find my motivation in engineering microbial solutions for a more sustainable human future. During my PhD at AWMC at the University of Queensland, Australia, I started working on bio-electrochemical systems for production of chemicals and fuels from renewables. By using an integrated approach of in silico modelling and in vivo pure culture studies I developed a strong background in bio-electrochemistry and cellular electron transfer mechanisms. After graduating from UQ in April 2016, I joined the Spormann lab at Stanford University in California where I continue to look at exciting microbe-electrode interactions with focus on production applications as part of the Global Climate & Energy Project of Stanford.


Title: Space synthetic biology: Development of a microbial production platform for high-strength polymers (Nils)

Abstract: Can a human outpost on the red planet be sustained by potatoes from Martian soil? The Rothschild lab at NASA Ames Research Center strives to provide answers and solutions to questions like these with tools of astrobiology and space synthetic biology. With the goal of a manned mission to Mars in mind, NASA has adopted synthetic biology to develop biological tools and technologies to sustain human activities across the solar system by increasing the capability and reducing the risk of space exploration. This spawns the need for "in situ resource utilization" to allow autonomous production of materials for advanced manufacturing, production of pharmaceuticals, food & life support. Biotechnology has the potential to suffice this need.

Having developed a yeast based microbial cell factory for production of precursors for high strength polymer materials in the past, this system is now being transferred into Bacillus subtilis, the organism of choice in space synthetic biology. The targeted para-aramid fibers, Kevlar-analogous materials, are important for ballistic protection, radiation shielding and insulation of habitations and environmental suits in space technology.

Bio: Dr. Nils Averesch is the Synthetic Biology Task Lead with Universities Space Research Association as a Visiting Scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, USA. He received his PhD in 2016 from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, where he focused on Metabolic Engineering at the Centre for Microbial Electrosynthesis. He holds an engineer’s degree (Dipl. Ing.) in Biochemical Engineering, from the Technical University of Dortmund in Dortmund, Germany, having graduated in 2011.

Event Details
Date & Time: 
Friday, 17 November 2017
9am - 10am
Venue: AIBN Building 75, Level 1 Seminar Room

Event Contact: