"Environment" research area

Featured MnDRIVE research: Wackett and Aksan Scientific Reports paper on sunlight-powered bioremediation

An MnDRIVE collaboration between Larry Wackett and Al Aksan resulted in the publication of “Silica ecosystem for synergistic biotransformation” in the Nature online journal Scientific Reports in the first week of June.

The paper was also featured on the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences website CBS Connect

The proof-of-concept paper showed that two different types of bacteria working together eliminated the need for aeration of a bioreactor, making bioremediation more cost-effective. One bacterial type metabolizes carbon compounds using oxygen generated by the other one through photosynthesis. To maintain such a mixed bacterial culture, the researchers had to control their growth by encapsulating them in a transparent silica gel. They optimized silica gel synthesis conditions through experiments and mathematical modelling. 

The first author of the paper, Baris Mutlu, is now a postdoc at Harvard Medical School. He worked under the direction of Al Aksan and was co-advised by Larry Wackett. Co-authors Jonathan Sakkos and Sujin Yeom continue to work on collaborative projects in the two laboratories. The students were supported by BTI and MnDRIVE funding.