Obtaining clean, renewable energy from 'dead zones'

$1,750
Raised
100%
Funded on 6/20/16
Successfully Funded
  • $1,750
    pledged
  • 100%
    funded
  • Funded
    on 6/20/16

About This Project

The aim of our research team is to isolate sediment bacteria with the highest potential for hydrogen production collected from a "dead zone" through the use of Winogradsky columns, which are transparent columns, in association with next generation sequencing techniques and bioreactors. By doing so, we will identify how clean energy (in the form of hydrogen gas) is being produced, how much of it is available, and propose new methods to increase biogas production efficiency.

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What is the context of this research?

Our previous work published in Renewable Energy journal in 2013 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S... was our main motivation for this research, where we were able to identify a consortia of 4 species of purple non sulfur bacteria that could produce low amounts of hydrogen in bioreactors. Now, we want to search for more effective hydrogen producers, such as cyanobacteria. Recent publications show that scientists are investigating metabolic processes involved in phototrophic microbial interactions and how to optimize hydrogen production. Our project will contribute with the advances in this way by identification of different cyanobacteria from the bottom of a natural lagoon, quantifying the gene expression and the final amount of hydrogen gas produced.

What is the significance of this project?

The selection of more effective and cheaper mechanisms for the biological production of clean energy is urgent. Hydrogen gas has a high calorific value and this has been motivating scientists to find new technology, using modified or native microbes, to increase production. We are proposing the application of an old technique, the Winogradsky column, in association with molecular tools in order to determine better candidates for bioreactors. We are in a moment in the planet history where our scientific knowledge needs to be used in favor of our planet. As Leonardo DiCaprio said on his 2016 Oscars speech - 'we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating'. We are not taking climate change for granted.

What are the goals of the project?

The goals of our project are: to determine microbial diversity by sequencing the 16S gene; to evaluate the activity of hydrogen-producing bacteria by quantifying the expression of genes from those microorganisms isolated by the Winogradsky columns; to select best candidates for bioreactors; and to quantify the hydrogen production in bioreactors.

Budget

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This budget is crucial for the success of our project because we haven't been able to extract RNA using traditional techniques yet, and the kit will help us extract RNA of good quality and quantity in a simple way. Additionally, we will cover the sequencing costs of 16S gene from the microorganisms isolated in the columns.

Endorsed by

This project promises practical solutions at a low price point, an excellent value, thoughtfully designed by a motivated and talented team!
A creative funding solution to an experiment investigating a massively important issue. By coupling enrichment techniques and next-gen molecular tools to harness the power of microbes this is offers a novel view of the processes underlying sustainable energy production.
I know Maria Luiza very well in terms of her great and high quality science. I know this experiment/project has great relevance and will have great impact in today's world and her field. It is an amazing idea to truly make the best of our renewable resources for a much more sustainable planet. I endorse her fully!
The idea of this project looks timely for two reasons: 1) the need to find alternative sources of natural and more environmentally-friendly energy for human needs, 2) it retains as a topic to make applicable science to get to the people as to understand the value of our research. The team seem well trained microbiologists able to perform this work. Good luck and looking forward to see your results!

Meet the Team

Maria Luiza Schmitz Fontes
Maria Luiza Schmitz Fontes
Research Associate

Affiliates

Federal University of Santa Catarina
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Lisi Heinzen de Liz
Lisi Heinzen de Liz
undergraduate student

Affiliates

Federal University of Santa Catarina
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Vinicius W Salazar
Vinicius W Salazar
Undergraduate student

Affiliates

Federal University of Santa Catarina
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Fernando de Freitas
Fernando de Freitas
undergraduate student

Affiliates

Federal University of Santa Catarina
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Luan Aires
Luan Aires
M.Sc student, Laboratory Technician

Affiliates

Federal University of Santa Catarina
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Regina Vasconcellos Antonio
Regina Vasconcellos Antonio
Associate Professor

Affiliates

Federal University of Santa Catarina
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Team Bio

Our team is formed by Prof. Regina V. Antonio (PhD), who has experience with bioreactors and genomics, Dr. Maria Luiza S Fontes (PhD) who has experience in marine microbial ecology and metagenomics, Luan Aires (MSc student) who has been working in the molecular biology and phytoplankton laboratories for the last 3 years, and our undergraduate students who contribute largely with our projects.

Maria Luiza Schmitz Fontes

I have been fascinated by the marine environment ever since I was a child. Throughout college (Biochemistry) and masters (in Environmental Sciences) I decided that my career was going to be "marine scientist". The fact that the "invisible" tiny microbes dominate life on our planet and that they have been here for as long as 4 billion years fascinates me. Anoxic primitive habitats are found nowadays in the bottom of many coastal systems, such as in Conceição Lagoon. During my PhD (in Biological Oceanography), I studied the microbial structure in these anoxic zones or so called "dead zones", which should not be named like that, in my opinion, because these areas are full of microscopic life! Some of these microbes can migrate vertically, linking the "unavailable" energy back to macroscopic organisms, and others can produce clean energy, such as hydrogen! Working with metagenomics from different ecosystems in Australia during my post-doc at University of Technology Sydney improved my skills on linking basic knowledge and biotechnology, which are the current motivations in my projects.

Lisi Heinzen de Liz

Spending holidays on the beach made me observe the sea for hours. Although the ocean covers most of our planet, it brings us so many mysteries, doubts and curiosities. Some people may think it is a "joke", but when I was a child, I loved to watch the movie "The Little Mermaid" and "Finding Nemo", where both showed great ocean floor richness. These details aroused interests on me in choosing the Bachelor course in Oceanography at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in order to learn more about the vast ocean that surrounds us. The course covers several fields - physics, chemistry, biological, geological and management. I'm still an undergraduate student, attending the 7th semester. This is my first experience as a volunteer intern, working on a project that aims to identify bacteria that produces hydrogen, present in dead zones, from phylogenetic determination, and this gives us ways to quantify the energy production by bacteria.

Vinicius W Salazar

Vinicius is an undergraduate biology student, born and raised in the island city of Florianópolis. After choosing a career in biology instead of studying to be a musician, he went to Australia for university exchange. There, he learned to love sharks and corals alike and that he could unite both of his passions in natural sciences: marine science and microbiology. When he is not in the lab working on the computer or out in the field diving, he likes to bother his neighbours by playing really loud.

Fernando de Freitas

I chose biology because I always liked the course during high school. Moreover, I had a lot of contact with nature when I was younger. Nowadays, biological and computer sciences are the main focus of my studies, making bioinformatics the perfect tool for my job.

Luan Aires

Growing up in a small town in the south of Brazil was a great experience. I always had a close relationship with the nature and animals which amplified more and more my interest in science. I chose to course Biological Sciences at the Federal University of Santa Catarina not only to pursue the dream of making a hobby my wage earner, but also because I knew that in Brazil researches are mainly done at Federal Universities, with a huge gap between these educational institutions and companies. During my bachelor’s degree my interest in the microscopic scale organisms excelled. I started working as a volunteer trainee in a laboratory of gene expression, at the same time in a laboratory of applied immunology. One of my advisors noticed my proactivity and interest in their research and offered me a scientific initiation scholarship, which in Brazil is the first step for undergraduate researchers. From there on I have worked with some viruses (rabies, HIV), monoclonal antibodies, applied microbiology and more recently, during my master course, biology and isolation of microalgae. In this scenery, I feel like my formation as a microbiologist is on its construction, and that the more we discover from this “invisible” organisms the better answers of how to relate with our planet we will have, solving emerging problems as pollution and global warming.

Regina Vasconcellos Antonio

Ph.D. in Functional and Molecular Biology - UNICAMP Brazil (1994), Pos-Doc in Molecular Biology of Microorganisms conducted at the Institute of Microbiology in the Westifaliche Muenster University - Germany (1997). Currently Associate Professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina. Main research interests in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Microorganisms, with emphasis on the application of molecular tools aiming the characterization of microbial biodiversity and its application in biotechnological processes for the treatment and utilization of agro-industrial residues for the biological production of hydrogen and other metabolites of technological interest.

Additional Information

Lab Note


Project Backers

  • 25Backers
  • 100%Funded
  • $1,750Total Donations
  • $70.00Average Donation
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