Electrifying Bacteria: EAIT's 3MT Final, People's Choice Award winner

14 Aug 2017

Igor Vassilev is a chemical biotechnologist interested in the design, development, and evaluation of novel biological concepts for application in sustainable biotechnology.

Igor was named the winner of the People's Choice award at the EAIT Faculty final of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT). He will progress to the UQ 3MT Wildcard Competition on 22 August. Register here to attend the event and support Igor.

Igor joined UQ's Advanced Water Management Centre in 2015 as a PhD student. He is researching the bioconversion of CO2 into industrially-relevant chemicals and biofuels under the supervision of Dr Bernardino Virdis, Dr Jens O. Krömer, Dr Pablo Ledezma and Associate Professor Stefano Freguia.

Igor Vassilev
Igor Vassilev receiving his People's Choice award at the EAIT 3MT finals from Professor Jason Stokes.

Electrifying bacteria turning CO2 to biofuels

Power generation is still a not sustainable process, as the main energy sector is mostly based on the use of non-renewable fossil fuels.

The energy sector has to face its negative environmental impact due to high emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) driving global warming. Therefore, research into finding sustainable alternative energy sources is critical.

Igor’s PhD research focuses on microbial-electrochemical conversion of the greenhouse gas CO2 into energy rich biofuels using a novel emerging biotechnology: Microbial Electrosynthesis.

This technology allows the supply of renewable electric energy (for example, from photovoltaic) to specific microbial communities.

These supercharged microbes are then able to use the electric energy as a power source to transform CO2 emissions into valuable biofuels.

Making chemicals from CO2 has many advantages.

First, many industrial processes produce large amounts of CO2 as waste streams, which can be used as feedstock.

Second, the fixation of CO2 will reduce the greenhouse footprint of many industrial processes, and thus has positive effects on the environment.

Third, this carbon source does not compete for food crops or arable land unlike sugar based bio-processes like the production of biodiesel.

Therefore, Igor’s technology demonstrates great potential being a sustainable future-application for production of biofuels from CO2.

Electrifying bacteria 3MT slide

Never heard of the 3MT? Find out more about this global competition for PhD students at the 3MT website.