Abstract: The use of saliva sampling as a minimally-invasive means for drug testing and monitoring physiology is a subject of great interest to researchers and clinicians. This study describes a new optical method based on non-axially symmetric focusing of light using an oblate spheroid sample chamber. The device is simple, lightweight, low cost and is easily attached to several different brands/models of smartphones (Apple, Samsung, HTC and Nokia) for the measurement of sodium ion levels at physiologically-relevant saliva concentrations. The sample and fluorescent reagent solutions are placed in a specially-designed, lightweight device that excludes ambient light and concentrates 470-nm excitation light, from a low-power photodiode, within the sample through non-axially-symmetric refraction. The study found that smartphone cameras and post-image processing quantitated sodium ion concentration in water over the range of 0.5–10 mM, yielding best-fit regressions of the data that agree well with a data regression of microplate luminometer results. The data suggest that fluorescence can be used for the measurement of salivary sodium ion concentrations in low-resource or point-of-care settings. With further fluorescent assay testing, the device may find application in a variety of enzymatic or chemical assays.
Abstract: Together with other so-called “bio-plastics”, Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are expected to soon replace established polymers on the plastic market. As a prerequisite, optimized process design is needed to make PHAs attractive in terms of costs and quality. Nowadays, large-scale PHA production relies on discontinuous fed-batch cultivation in huge bioreactors. Such processes presuppose numerous shortcomings such as nonproductive time for reactor revamping, irregular product quality, limited possibility for supply of certain carbon substrates, and, most of all, insufficient productivity. Therefore, single- and multistage continuous PHA biosynthesis is increasingly investigated for production of different types of microbial PHAs; this goes for rather crystalline, thermoplastic PHA homopolyesters as well as for highly flexible PHA copolyesters, and even blocky-structured PHAs consisting of alternating soft and hard segments. Apart from enhanced productivity and constant product quality, chemostat processes can be used to elucidate kinetics of cell growth and PHA formation under constant process conditions. Furthermore, continuous enrichment processes constitute a tool to isolate novel powerful PHA-producing microbial strains adapted to special environmental conditions. The article discusses challenges, potential and case studies for continuous PHA production, and shows up new strategies to further enhance such processes economically by developing unsterile open continuous processes combined with the application of inexpensive carbon feedstocks.
Abstract: The potential of two alkali-tolerant, lignocellulolytic environmental enrichment cultures to improve the anaerobic fermentation of Ca(OH)2-pre-treated wheat straw was studied. The biomethane potential of pre-treated straw was 36% higher than that of untreated straw. The bioaugmentation of pre-treated straw with the enrichment cultures did not enhance the methane yield, but accelerated the methane production during the first week. In acidogenic leach-bed fermenters, a 61% higher volatile fatty acid (VFA) production and a 112% higher gas production, mainly CO2, were observed when pre-treated instead of untreated straw was used. With one of the two enrichment cultures as the inoculum, instead of the standard inoculum, the VFA production increased by an additional 36% and the gas production by an additional 110%, again mainly CO2. Analysis of the microbial communities in the leach-bed processes revealed similar bacterial compositions in the fermenters with pre-treated straw, which developed independently of the used inoculum. It was suggested that the positive metabolic effects with the enrichment cultures observed in both systems were due to initial activities of the alkali-tolerant microorganisms tackling the alkaline conditions better than the standard inocula, whereas the latter dominated in the long term.
Abstract: Humic compounds are inhibitory to the anaerobic hydrolysis of cellulosic biomass. In this study, the impact of salt addition to mitigate the inhibitory effects of humic compounds was investigated. The experiment was conducted using batch tests to monitor the anaerobic hydrolysis of cellulose in the presence of humic acid. Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron salts were tested separately for their efficiency to mitigate humic acid inhibition. All experiments were done under mesophilic conditions (30 °C) and at pH 7. Methane production was monitored online, using the Automatic Methane Potential Test System. Methane production, soluble chemical oxygen demand and volatile fatty acid content of the samples were measured to calculate the hydrolysis efficiencies. Addition of magnesium, calcium and iron salts clearly mitigated the inhibitory effects of humic acid and hydrolysis efficiencies reached up to 75%, 65% and 72%, respectively, which were similar to control experiments. Conversely, potassium and sodium salts addition did not mitigate the inhibition and hydrolysis efficiencies were found to be less than 40%. Mitigation of humic acid inhibition via salt addition was also validated by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy analyses, which showed the binding capacity of different cations to humic acid.
Abstract: Propionate is the most delicate intermediate during anaerobic digestion as its degradation is thermodynamically unfavorable. To determine its maximum possible degradation rates during anaerobic digestion, a reactor was fed Monday to Friday with an organic loading rate (OLR) of 12/14 kg CODbiowaste·m−3·d−1 plus propionate up to a final OLR of 18 kg COD·m−3·d−1. No feed was supplied on weekends as it was the case in full-scale. To maintain permanently high propionate oxidizing activity (POA), a basic OLR of 3 kg CODpropionate·m−3·d−1 all week + 11 kg CODbiowaste·m−3·d−1 from Monday to Friday was supplied. Finally a reactor was operated with an OLR of 12 kg CODbiowaste·m−3·d−1 from Monday to Friday and 5 kg CODpropionate·m−3·d−1 from Friday night to Monday morning to maintain a constant gas production for permanent operation of a gas engine. The propionate degradation rates (PDRs) were determined for biowaste + propionate feeding. Decreasing PDRs during starvation were analyzed. The POA was higher after propionate supply than after biowaste feeding and decreased faster during starvation of a propionate-fed rather than a biowaste-fed inoculum. Shifts of the propionate-oxidizing and methanogenic community were determined.
Abstract: Tissues in the body are hierarchically structured composite materials with tissue-specific chemical and topographical properties. Here we report the preparation of tissue scaffolds with macroscopic pores generated via the dissolution of a sacrificial supramolecular polymer-based crystal template (urea) from a biodegradable polymer-based scaffold (polycaprolactone, PCL). Furthermore, we report a method of aligning the supramolecular polymer-based crystals within the PCL, and that the dissolution of the sacrificial urea yields scaffolds with macroscopic pores that are aligned over long, clinically-relevant distances (i.e., centimeter scale). The pores act as topographical cues to which rat Schwann cells respond by aligning with the long axis of the pores. Generation of an interpenetrating network of polypyrrole (PPy) and poly(styrene sulfonate) (PSS) in the scaffolds yields electroactive tissue scaffolds that allow the electrical stimulation of Schwann cells cultured on the scaffolds which increases the production of nerve growth factor (NGF).