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Energy & the Environment

Our newest application area addresses problems related to energy and the environment. We apply our proteomics and systems biology approaches to study the solvent tolerant microbe Clostridium acetobutylicum as part of an academic consortium working to better understand this organism and its potential use as a biocatalyst. C. acetobutylicum has demonstrated the ability to convert basic sugars into a wide variety of industrially important molecules including acetone, ethanol, and butanol (a next generation biofuel). These molecules of interest are traditionally produced using petroleum based carbon sources. With the current energy crisis, the possibility of using renewable energy sources, such as plants instead of petroleum is the overall goal.

We are also working to understand how microbial communities found in the environment degrade a variety of environmental pollutants. By using a metaproteomics approach (the simultaneous analysis of multiple proteomes from a community of microorganisms) we are uncovering enzymes that are key to processes in the Earth's critical zone and the impact of heavy metals on the ability of these enzymes to work effectively.

C. acetobutylicum


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