Aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzene, toluene, xylenes (BTEX), styrenes, and chlorinated aromatic compounds such as pentachlorophenol, are environmental pollutants which cause serious problems in ground water and in soil, in waste gases and in waste water. Their biotechnological removal from waste streams and from ecosystems has received a great deal of attention because the biological approach is very competitive when compared to physical or chemical method
The aerobic degradation of aromatic hydrocarbons by bacteria has been studied in very great detail with more than 1000 research papers appearing during the last decade on toluene alone. The metabolism of these aromatic hydrocarbons and their toxic degradation products has also been studied extensively in humans and in animals.
Fungi play a very important role in various ecosystems and for instance in soil they are more predominant than bacteria. They also can be applied in the degradation of pollutants but in contrast to bacteria, non white-rot fungi have received almost no attention in this respect. In Europe, very recently 3 laboratories have been studying the degradation of (chlorinated) aromatics by non white rot fungi. These 3 groups have now combined forces to uncover fungal metabolism of these compounds and to investigate the potential of these organisms in environmental biotechnology.
The use of fungi instead of bacteria offers specific advantages with respect to stability and activity of populations, especially under conditions of reduced water activity and low pH. The potential of fungi in degrading aromatic hydrocarbons will be investigated systematically by isolating strains from the environment and by testing a fungal culture collection. The biodegradative pathways for the (chlorinated) aromatic hydrocarbons will be studied. Using the data on the physiology and biochemistry, appropriate bioreactor configurations will be studied and their performance will be described mathematically. The existing contacts between the partners and SME's and larger companies will be used to transfer the new technology.
The objective of the proposed research consequently is (i) to study the present poorly understood fungal metabolism of (chlorinated) aromatic hydrocarbons and to devise and to put into practice fungi-based systems for the treatment of was containing aromatic hydrocarbons.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts