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Can bugs generate electricity?
Bug and light

Bacteria living in Minnesota mud can help us release energy. When we give them some food and a place to work, like the inside of a fuel cell, we get electricity. more >>

About the University's Biocatalysis Initiative

The University of Minnesota Biocatalysis Initiative was created to focus and fund research in the areas of industrial biocatalysis and chemical biotechnology - biological processes which promise a safer and more sustainable future.

What is biocatalysis?

Biocatalysis is the use of biological catalysts called enzymes to transform plant material into useful products. Plants themselves contain enzymes which convert carbon dioxide in the air to nutritious carbohydrates such as sugar and starch. Selected enzymes are typically used to reduce reaction time to a matter of seconds for biological transformations that might otherwise require several months to reach completion. And because they remain unchanged in the process, one enzyme molecule can be used to catalyze many transformations. Biocatalysis differs from standard industrial chemistry and chemical engineering in that the biochemical transformation of enzymes requires less extreme temperatures, requires little or no additional energy input, and produces less hazardous byproducts.

News Highlights

BTI researcher converts algae to coal

Dr. Steve Heilmann has worked successfully in a laboratory at the BioTechnology Institute to develop an energy-efficient process for converting algae to a valuable coal-like char. more >>

Wackett project wins DOE stimulus funding

BTI faculty member Larry Wackett is lead investigator for a University of Minnesota team project which will receive funding to explore production of liquid hydrocarbon transportation fuels directly from sunlight, water and CO2. more >>

BTI-industry collaboration leads to development of a melamine field test

Research conducted by the Wackett and Sadowsky laboratories identified and led to development of an enzyme that is being used in a commercial test kit for detecting melamine in infant formula and other foods. more >>

Breakthrough research


Professors Larry Wackett and Michael Sadowsky (BTI) developed an enzyme used in a new test kit that simplifies the detection of melamine contamination in food. Melamine is an industrial chemical that killed six Chinese children and hospitalized 150,000 last year after it was added to milk to increase its apparent protein content.