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Biotechnological Research

The biotechnological research at PEERI involves a multi-dimensional approach to bioprocesses which combines appropriate fundamental aspects of microbiology, cell biology, molecular biology, physiology, biochemistry, enzymology, genetics, and chemistry with the practice of petroleum engineering. Our emphasis is on the versatility of microbial metabolism and the intrinsic ability of microorganisms to media biogeochemical cycles. Our current research focus on mainly three areas:

1) Better understand the molecular genetics and optimize the process of biosurfactants synthesis in P. aeruginosa and Bacillus subtilis.Two biosurfactants produced by those two bacteria strains, rhamnolipid and surfactin, are both controlled by two-way quorum sensing mechanism. We have successfully produced rhamnolipid in heterologous hosts by cloning the necessary genes onto over-expressing plasmids. We are studying the possibilities to genetically engineer high-potent bacteria stains that can produce cost-effective biosurfactants for oil industrial applications, such as MEOR.

2) Gain the fundamental scientific understanding of CH4 generation by methanogenic bacteria at thermophilic conditions. Specifically, our research will answer the following questions:
-How do acetate-consuming methanogen and H2-CO2-consuming methanogen contribute to the thermophilic anaerobic treatment?

- Are the biological nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorous and inorganic metal ions, sufficient enough to support the growth of different groups of bacteria?

- How do the environmental conditions, especially temperature and pressure affect the efficiency and speed of anaerobic methanogenic process?

3) Study how CO 2 reduction occurs and how CH4 is generated by methanogenic bacteria.
interests have been focused on an uncommon but well documented bio-methanogenesis as shown in the equation below:

4H2 + CO2 ------> CH4 + 2 H2O + ATP

This process is also believed to be a strictly anaerobic process, where the H2 is supplied from a fermentation reaction by a different bacterial group (interspecies hydrogen transfer mechanism). Uncover the mechanisms of this methanogenic process will leads us to the new methods of carbon sequestration.