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Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2019-01-01 - 2021-12-31

Circular economy and any form of sustainable society depends on the availability of renewable resources in high quantities. Agricultural production of industrial raw products is, for well known reasons, ethically questionable. Cultivation of phototrophic microorganisms (algae and cyanobacteria) does not provoke such conflicts, but is, compared with agriculture, a relatively new research segment and far less optimised. One of the promising product groups are the poly-hydroxalkanoates (PHA's), native in bacteria and cyanobacteria and, when isolated, with properties and with a usability similar to conventional plastics. Besides possibilities and limits for a biotechnological mass production, understanding the biological and ecological meaning of this natural polymer demands for investigative research. While there are already some reports for heterotrophic bacteria available, very little is known about the possible functions and interactions of PHA's in cyanobacteria. Our project conducts highly specialised methods for measurements of chemical, physical, morphological and molecular parameters with the exposure of cyanobacteria cells to favourable and unfavourable environmental conditions. Based on the collected data we expect to gain a deep insight into the cyanobacterial stress response in terms of PHA accumulation. The outcome is not only of academic interest, it is likely a valuable base for future process optimisation in cyanobacterial biotechnology.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2019-01-01 - 2019-12-31

FibreZyme aims gaining better understanding of enzyme reaction mechanisms during refining and their influence on fibre and paper properties. The results of FibreZyme include detailed mechanistic knowledge on the action of purified enzymes and of their combinations on cellulose fibres as well as process control strategies elaborated based on this knowledge. From these findings, corporate partners should be able to choose suitable enzyme formulations and implement applications for their different individual processes, without external consultation needed. Pulp and paper production is a large industrial sector in Austria with many mills interested in implementing efficient and environmentally friendly technologies. Within these efforts, the great potential of enzymes for several crucial process steps has been demonstrated. Enzyme technology can help to improve the economics of paper production process and at the same time reduce environmental impacts. Current research shows several advantages like reduced consumption of chemicals in pulping, increasing yield of fiber, reduced refining energy requirements, or to provide specific fiber modifications. FibreZyme will focus on enzymatic steps for refining, deinking and viscosity adjustment. So, there is a strong need to investigate where and how different enzymes act on the fibre structure, and to elucidate their effects on refining, dewatering, deinking and viscosity behavior.In these areas, a better understanding of the enzyme mechanism and the development of control strategies is of high importance. Especially, since enzymes can cause damage to fibres during unwanted machine shutdowns. The needed knowledge will be obtained by investigating the effects of enzymes on industrially used (real) as well as model substrates with the help of a combination of several analytical and imaging technologies. FibreZyme will address those challenges and aims to predict the enzyme performance in industrial implementation. In the end, the results of FibreZyme will contribute to a better understanding of all the beneficial effects of enzymes as well as of potential risks in pulp fibres processing. Furthermore, FibreZyme will provide company partners tools and protocols for enzyme selection, characterization and handling refining process. Control procedures developed by FibreZyme will help to optimize the enzyme beneficial effects while minimizing unwanted reactions in the areas of refining, deinking, de-watering and viscosity control.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2018-10-01 - 2021-09-30

There is an urgent need for developing novel and sustainable systems to allow controlled delivery of agrochemicals over long periods as well as systems that enable provision of water to crops in order to prevent the negative effects of droughts on crop yields. In view of the fast depletion of ground water reserves, uncertainty of rains of the world over, coupled with the growing food demand due to exponential growth in human population, efficient use of water available for crops has become highly relevant. Hydrogels are characterized by the ability to absorb and retain exceptionally huge amounts of water much greater, in comparison to their weight. This is extremely important since droughts and erratic rainfall patterns attributed to global warming are seriously affecting crop yields even in regions where normal rain is expected. In addition since up to 50 % of nitrogen fertilizer is lost while more than 95% of pesticides and herbicides are released into the environment there is need to develop technologies that guarantees that these agrochemicals do not contaminate the environment. To address these problems current agrochemical delivery and water storage systems are based on non-biodegradable fossil resources whose persistence in the environment are already causing serious environmental pollution problems. Lignin, present in trees (40%) and in agricultural by-products or resulting bioethanol plants is currently under-explored and mainly burned for energy production. Based on these reasons, the major aim of the study is to explore the possibility of producing lignin based biodegradable water and agrochemical controlled release systems using biocatalysts.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations