Field test for optimized cell factories

Without microorganisms, there would be no bread, no cheese, no beer and no wine. The metabolic capabilities of bacteria, yeasts and molds are of particular importance with regard to a sustainable economy. With their help, renewable raw materials can be converted into new substances and customized products for the bioeconomy. Industrial biotechnology has therefore been using microorganisms as production factories for the manufacture of chemicals, drugs, vaccines or fuels for decades.

Glue free wood panels from tree bark

Tree trunks consist of up to 20% bark, which until now has only been partially utilized. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPIKG) have now significantly expanded the use of native tree bark through a new process. As part of a feasibility study, the team was able to demonstrate that tree bark can be preserved in its natural state and processed into panels without adhesives. The glue-free bark panels could replace conventional chipboard in interior design or in the furniture and packaging sector.

How plants protect themselves from sun

It is not only human skin that suffers from too much sun: plant cells, too, can only tolerate a certain amount, even though they depend on sunlight for photosynthesis. To protect themselves and their cell structures, plants form color pigments in their leaves. These usually color the leaves reddish, but also violet or blue, and absorb light. A team of researchers from the Universities of Rostock, Leipzig and HU Berlin has now elucidated how this plant sun protection is regulated.

Biotechnology sector at a low

The Corona pandemic had caused sales in the German biotech industry to soar for two years in a row. Just as great was the willingness of companies to invest in research and development (R&D) and create new jobs. Vaccine developers such as BioNTech and CureVac in particular had determined the record growth. Now, the annual survey of the industry association BIO Deutschland revealed a rather pessimistic picture.

Biodegradable alternative to HD polyethylene developed

High-density polyethylenes (HDPE) are popular materials for plastic containers, sheets and films because they form particularly robust and durable thermoplastics. These properties result from the way the molecular chains of the plastic combine - usually arranged in crystalline structures. However, the chemical structure of high-density polyethylene has a disadvantage: it is an almost pure hydrocarbon without functional groups, i.e. without reactive side elements of the main chain.

Climate change requires breeding of new soybean varieties

Besides France, Italy, Serbia and Romania, soy is also cultivated in Germany. In the 1980s, there were just 1,000 hectares of arable land for soy; in 2022, according to the Deutschen Sojaförderring ("German Soy Promotion Ring"), there were around 51,400 hectares - an increase of almost 50% compared to the previous year. In the long term, soy production in Europe could continue to increase significantly, as more and more arable land is suitable for cultivation. This is the result of a recent study by the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF).

Fresh capital for Project Eaden

Plant-based meat substitutes have long since conquered supermarket shelves. There is still a need for research in terms of taste and texture, but development is running at full speed. For example, Project Eaden works on a technology that makes it possible to produce "ultra-realistic meat from plants." In January, the Berlin-based food tech start-up presented its platform technology in Berlin. Back in December, the trio of founders was again able to raise fresh capital from investors for the further development of the technology as part of a seed round.

Algae as green hydrogen producers

For many, hydrogen is the energy carrier of the future because it is a clean and versatile fuel that produces no direct greenhouse gas emissions. But hydrogen is only sustainable if it is produced with electricity from renewable sources. In the project "Structure-based Metabolic Engineering of H2 Production by Algae (H2M)", researchers from Ruhr-Universität Bochum and Osaka University want to use certain microalgae as hydrogen producers and enable them to produce hydrogen not only during the day through photosynthesis, but also at night.

Oleogels as palm oil substitute

Due to its versatile properties, palm oil is one of the most sought-after vegetable oils - especially in the food industry. However, the economic, social and ecological consequences of palm oil cultivation in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia are controversial. Researchers at the Max Rubner Institute in Detmold and the Technical University of Berlin have now found a domestic alternative.

Grafting and genome editing for rapid creation of new varieties

CRISPR-Cas was a breakthrough for plant breeding: The genome editing method works more precisely than classical genetic engineering and avoids many of the things for which classical genetic engineering was criticized. But although the "gene scissors" produce results much faster than conventional breeding, they are still quite slow, especially for woody plants. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology have now removed the backcrossing bottleneck with a combination method.