Biotechnology

Innovation is crucial to fulfil the potential of industrial biotechnology for sustainable production of fuels, chemicals, materials, food and feed. Similarly, scientific and technological advances in environmental biotechnology are needed to enable novel approaches to water purification, and ‘waste-to-product’ processes thus contributing to a circular economy. Increased fundamental knowledge encompassing enzymes, microorganisms and processes are essential for progress in this field. The Department of Biotechnology covers this research area and, based on new insights, selects, designs and tests new biobased catalysts, micro-organisms, and processes.

The department encompasses five research sections:

News

News

03 June 2014

TU Delft takes a closer look at ‘new’, extreme bacteria

TU Delft is working with an international team to unravel the mystery of a newly-discovered type of bacteria. It can survive in extreme conditions that were normal on earth billions of years ago. The research could cast new light on how life first started on Earth. The scientists recently published about it in Nature Communications. Life The remarkable bacteria that are now being studied in more detail by TU Delft thrive best at an extremely high pH of 11. This is the highest that has ever been measured for bacteria. They were recently discovered in springs in an ancient volcanic region of northern California. Until recently, no one had ever thought of exploring these springs for signs of life. The conditions were considered to be too extreme, with a pH of 11 and hardly any traces of the important elements phosphorus, nitrogen and sulphur. Photo: Vibeke Kuenen-Boumeester Extreme environment ‘This extreme environment develops as a result of a very old geological process known as serpentinization’, says TU Delft's Prof. Gijs Kuenen. ‘In it, water reacts with iron-containing silicates to form hydrogen gas. In the early life of the planet, more than three billion years ago, this process was very dominant.’ ‘The bacteria appear to grow very well with hydrogen plus oxygen or nitrate as a source of energy and carbon dioxide as a source of carbon, but they can also grow on a range of organic compounds. DNA analysis reveals that these bacteria occur globally in other such springs in which serpentinization occurs.’ Mystery Gijs Kuenen and his colleagues from the J. Craig Venter Institute and the University of Southern California are now working hard in the laboratory to unravel the mystery. ‘We aim to discover how they manage to survive and even thrive at this extreme pH. Studying these bacteria could help in gaining an understanding of how life came about on the early Earth and about the way in which life can exist in a very alkaline environment.’ International The bacteria have been given the genus name Serpentinomonas. The research has been conducted by an international team in which TU Delft is playing an important role. The team previously published about it in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science . A follow-up article has now been published in Nature Communications . More information Physiological and genomic features of highly alkaliphilic hydrogen-utilizing Betaproteobacteria from a continental serpentinizing site , by Shino Suzuki, J. Gijs Kuenen, Kira Schipper, Suzanne van der Velde, Shun’ichi Ishii, Angela Wu, Dimitry Y. Sorokin, Aaron Tenney, XianYing Meng, Penny L. Morrill, Yoichi Kamagata, Gerard Muyzer & Kenneth H. Nealson, Nature Communications 5, Article number: 3900, doi:10.1038/ncomms4900. Contact: Prof. J. Gijs Kuenen, +31 (0)15 213 7840 or at TU Delft: +31 (0)15 2785308, J.G.Kuenen@tudelft.nl, or visit his personal page . TU Delft science information officer Roy Meijer, +31 (0)15 2781751, r.e.t.meijer@tudelft.nl

20 December 2013

Isabel Arends new board member of STW

Prof. Isabel W.C.E. Arends, Head of the Biotechnology Department at Delft University of Technology, has been appointed to the board of the Technology Foundation STW with effect from 1 January 2014. Isabel Arends (born 1966) studied Physical Organic Chemistry at Leiden University and obtained her PhD with distinction in 1993 for her doctoral thesis “Thermolysis of arene derivatives with coal-type hydrogen donors”. She subsequently spent a post-doc year at the Steacie Institute of Molecular Sciences, in Ottawa, Canada and was appointed KNAW Fellow of Delft University of Technology in 1996. She has been working as research group leader and Professor of Biocatalysis and Organic Chemistry in the Biotechnology department since January 2007. Her research is devoted to developing green catalysts for products and medicines, and focuses on the development and use of enzymes. Besides oxidative enzymes, she also studies hybrid varieties with metals in proteins, exploring their potential in the sustainable production of van epoxides, alcohols and ketones. In relation to policy at Delft University of Technology, Isabel Arends is a member of the management team of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Vice-President of Post-Graduate School BSDL. In addition, she is chair of the “Women in Chemistry”committee with the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and Chemical Sciences and up to the end of 2013 she was president of DEWIS (the network for female scientists at TU Delft). "STW is delighted with the appointment of Isabel Arends. With her experience and background she will strengthen STW in our aim to enable research with societal impact," explains Board President Peter Apers.

20 December 2013

Isabel Arends new board member of STW

Prof. Isabel W.C.E. Arends, Head of the Biotechnology Department at Delft University of Technology, has been appointed to the board of the Technology Foundation STW with effect from 1 January 2014. Isabel Arends (born 1966) studied Physical Organic Chemistry at Leiden University and obtained her PhD with distinction in 1993 for her doctoral thesis “Thermolysis of arene derivatives with coal-type hydrogen donors”. She subsequently spent a post-doc year at the Steacie Institute of Molecular Sciences, in Ottawa, Canada and was appointed KNAW Fellow of Delft University of Technology in 1996. She has been working as research group leader and Professor of Biocatalysis and Organic Chemistry in the Biotechnology department since January 2007. Her research is devoted to developing green catalysts for products and medicines, and focuses on the development and use of enzymes. Besides oxidative enzymes, she also studies hybrid varieties with metals in proteins, exploring their potential in the sustainable production of van epoxides, alcohols and ketones. In relation to policy at Delft University of Technology, Isabel Arends is a member of the management team of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Vice-President of Post-Graduate School BSDL. In addition, she is chair of the “Women in Chemistry”committee with the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and Chemical Sciences and up to the end of 2013 she was president of DEWIS (the network for female scientists at TU Delft). "STW is delighted with the appointment of Isabel Arends. With her experience and background she will strengthen STW in our aim to enable research with societal impact," explains Board President Peter Apers.