Bugs that Eat the Shit we Shit and then Shit it out

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SO, Microorganisms live almost everywhere on Earth where there is liquid water, including hot springs, on the ocean floor, and deep inside rocks within Earth’s crust.  Microorganisms are critical to nutrient recycling in ecosystems as they act as decompose-rs  Microorganisms also play a large part in the human body and in fact all living things. 

 In the biosphere, microorganisms play a key role in maintaining the chemical balance of available nutrients and metabolic waste products. In this way, they help preserve the natural environment. In addition, microorganisms are important in the elemental cycles occurring in the soil. In the soil ecosystem, microorganisms are the largest contributors of organic matter. This organic matter is derived from the metabolism of animal and plant waste. The decay-resistant organic matter not recycled combines with mineral particles to form the dark-coloured material of soil called humus. Humus increases the soil’s ability to retain air and water.

FluDOC – Glowing Bacteria show if you have Influenza


DESIGN CASE


“Bacteria are traditionally perceived as infectious and unhealthy, but that is about to change. This week designer
 Jan van der Asdonk graduated from the Next Nature Lab at the TU/e Industrial Design Masters with a speculative yet full-fledged product proposal called the FluDOC, which uses glowing bacteria to detect human influenza.”

The product uses genetically modified bioluminescent bacteria which are sensitive to influenza as a detector, somewhat similar to the canaries that were once used in coalmines to detect potentially dangerous gasses.

Bacteria often erroneously seen as a threat to our health, however, designer Jan van der Asdonk has tried to overcome this threat. He has created a personal test that uses genetically modified bacteria that are sensitive to human flu viruses.

The FluDOC consists of a casing and a small stick which the user can use to collect saliva from the mouth, after which a liquid capsule of the bioluminescent bacteria is entered. If the saliva contains an influenza virus the bacteria will die within 15 minutes and stop emitting their continuous flow of light, which the user can simply read of the display.

The personal influenza test would typically be used if you don’t feel well but are unsure if you have influenza or merely a cold. Such self-diagnosis could contribute to an early detection and containment of infectious influenza viruses – similar to the canary in a coal mine that warned miners of dangerous gases, the bacteria in the FluDOC detect if you have the flu.

 

Bacteria that eat waste and shit petrol

DESIGN CASE


COMPANY: LS9
“Energy problem? Why not genetically alter bacteria to have them provide ‘renewable petroleum’. Crude oil is only a few molecular stages removed from the acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation; it does not take much fiddling to get the desired result. Will we soon be driving on bacteria shit?”

A genetic alteration of micro sized organisms (bugs) are able to feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, however, the extraordinary this is that they excrete waste that can be turned into crude bio oil.
Unbelievably, this is not science fiction – What is most remarkable about what this company are doing is that instead of trying to re-engineer the global economy – as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel – they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.

Because crude oil can be refined into other products, such as petroleum or jet fuel, is only a few molecular stages removed from the fatty during fermentation, it does not take much tampering to get the desired result.
For fermentation to take place you need raw material, or feedstock, as it is known in the biofuels industry. Anything will do as long as it can be broken down into sugars, with the bi-product ideally burnt to produce electricity to run the plant.
Using genetically modified bugs for fermentation is essentially the same as using natural bacteria to produce ethanol (such as algae or duckweed) although the energy-intensive final process of distillation is virtually eliminated because the bugs excrete a substance that is almost ready to be put into a bowser at a local petrol station, and that is the most remarkable thing about this process, it eliminates so many processes in creating a crude oil and also that it uses natural organisms.
LS9 has created a large production machine that is capable of producing 1,000-litre fermenting bio oil. The machine is described as a large metal container connected to a large computer that excretes the oil into long glass tubes. Although the machine has not been used it is capable of producing the equivalent of roughly one full metal container worth a week of bio fuel. However, to substitute the amount of oil used in Australia’s daily consumption, would take a copious amount of metal containers to be able to sustain the situation – that is the main problem: although LS9 can produce its bug fuel in laboratory beakers, it has no idea whether it will be able produce the same results on a nationwide or even global scale.

But the question stands, are we ready to have genetically modified bug excretion in our cars? It’s not as though we are eating this waste, it is going into our cars; it’s not as though we go around petrol? Just like any fuel product you don’t want to be consuming it.

 

Bacteria that turn CO2 into energy


DESIGN CASE

“We’ve written earlier about man–made bacteria that eat waste & shit petrol. How about genetically modified bacteria that can eat CO2 and excrete methane that could power our cars and homes? Abundant carbon dioxide, which is considered a pollutant, could be a nearly unlimited source of fuel. Will you one day be driving your car to fight global warming?”

Craig Venter a pioneer is synthetic life and genome practices aims to create a bacterium that will consume CO2 and produce fuel. A bacterium that will ingest CO2, sunlight and water and excrete out a liquid fuel that can be pumped into your car from a local petrol station. Venter hypothesized that the bacteria will supplant the need for carbon capture and sequestration technologies by making CO2 a commodity, instead of a bi-product to be disposed of. Venter says that large bacterium fermenters, similar to the ones used for beer and wine, would replace traditional oil refineries. He expects this engineered bacteria to be commercially available within the coming years, which is quite a large claim, but it if done well could help more projects similar to his to push on to the public.

To be specific, the organism produces methane by combining carbon dioxide with hydrogen rising through the vents. Incorporated into the air pollution control systems of power plants, the organism could turn CO2 into methane.

Although it will be difficult to apply the technique on a large scale anytime soon, large investors are already making a move to this technology. As for design I could see this mainly being used in vehicles or systems that require a piston motor. The most exciting part to this technology is that in the near future we could have self-sustaining cars – a car that uses these bacteria in its motor or external structure to constantly feed it fuel without having to fuel up. Although we are moving towards electronic cars and cleaner energy, the fact is people will still want motor cars; they enjoy the engines, the speed and the power. The thing is that this could potentially eliminate petrol stations in the future and fuel refineries which is a huge step in the right direction.

 

Microorganisms are not only a crucial part of our eco-system but now a fundamental opportunity for future technologies that can be incorporated into design studies and applications. When in controlled parameters microbes can be used in many applications including medicine, sustainable solutions to fuel production and advanced biological systems. The downside to microorganisms is that they are such a large part of our life that they also cause a lot of the problems we are trying to eradicate, for e.g. illnesses caused by bacterial infections or spreading of a virus. So I guess our main focus, other than applying microbes to design is to also learn to control the way they behave when exposed to unfamiliar environments, so that they do not evolve into something we did not intent on creating.

I found many case studies revolving around the use of microbes in the applications of science and design, an excellent example of a medical device utilizing microbes is the FluDOC device: “the product uses genetically modified bioluminescent bacteria which are sensitive to influenza as a detector, somewhat similar to the canaries that were once used in coalmines to detect potentially dangerous gasses.” – An interesting device, which has incorporated its functionality with a product/device, which is actually designed quite well, from an aesthetic point of view. As far as the device itself, its non-invasive procedure of use has been designed with empathy for the user. Simplistic devices such as this one just go to prove how much we are advancing in biological design, and that we are now designing for a purpose, other than just aesthetic values in some fields of design.

Two similar case studies I looked into use bacterial organisms that convert substances into a bio fuel. The plus side of this process is that eliminates the most machined processes used in order to make a bio fuel. For e.g. algae is able to be converted into a bio fuel, however, it takes a number of expensive processes to do so. The excellent quality of a bacterial organism is that it virtually eats one substance and spits the final result out the other end – this does not only get rid of a few factory processes to make the fuel, but does it on the spot, meaning it can do it portably. So, instead of waiting for the fuel to be refined in a separate location we could potentially have our own mobile refineries sitting in our vehicles or homes.
This all sounds great and an excellent alternative to coal refineries and it is, but we are still using this fuel to put into motors, which pump out CO2 into our atmosphere. Although this option proves to be less efficient than clean energy, it’s still far better than the system we currently have.

So, the future of design and sustainable systems looks promising, the only flaw in this system is that we are doing it too darn slow. Solar cell technology has been used since the 1960’s and has just recently been introduced in the past few years in regular society and in government grants to encourage the use of solar cell power. We are rapidly running out of time, and are surely going to suffer the consequences in the next few decades. But the thing is it takes too many processes through the government to make a change or even have it accepted or funded. And sadly this is how it has been for years.

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One thought on “Bugs that Eat the Shit we Shit and then Shit it out

  1. Pingback: Bugs that Eat the Shit we Shit and then Shit it out | AS ONE

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