Yeast, wood, and stock markets: DKK 20 mill. for new engineering research
Five research groups at AU Engineering have received funding from Independent Research Fund Denmark to develop new technologies within carbon capture, artificial antibodies, dietary supplements for intestinal bacteria and artificial intelligence, for example.
Can you use intestinal bacteria to develop green chemicals of the future? Can artificial intelligence help us to understand the stock market? And can we get yeast to absorb carbon from the atmosphere and convert it into liquid fuels?
These are some of the questions new research projects are aiming to answer in five research groups at Aarhus University's Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The projects have received funding from Independent Research Fund Denmark and they all aim to provide "original and ground-breaking" research.
"This grant is important for our research," says Professor Alexandros Iosifidis, who has received DKK 6.2 million in research support for his project, Deep Learning for Financial Investor Network Analysis. "The interface between artificial intelligence and finance is a recent interdisciplinary field, with huge potential to improve our understanding of complex financial systems," he continues.
In the project, the professor and his research group, Machine Learning and Computational Intelligence, are aiming to model and analyse financial markets with modern AI models.
"Existing financial models generally make unrealistic assumptions for the behavioural characteristics of investors and the flow of information within and outside the financial market. Using the latest advances in deep learning, we will develop new models with the potential to improve our understanding of the dynamics of the investment network – a very useful tool for financial supervisory authorities," he says.
Professor Zheng Guo from the Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering, is head of the research group Agro-Biotechnology Science, and he has also received DKK 6.2 million from Independent Research Fund Denmark for the project ‘C1-to-Cn Biopath’.
The aim of the project is to develop the yeast S. Cerevisiae to absorb and bind carbon from green biomass, that has absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere. This means the yeast can act as a negative-carbon technology that can be used for energy storage and production of biofuels, for example.
"We’re going to turn the natural metabolism of the yeast upside down and get it to convert CO2 and methane into alkanes, which can then be used as biofuel. The project will develop a proof-of-concept scale setup, but the plan is to be able to scale it up to industrial scale later," says Professor Zheng Guo.
Four of the total of five projects at AU Engineering that have received funding from Independent Research Fund Denmark for original and ground-breaking research are based at the Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering.
The head of the Enzyme Engineering research group, Assistant Professor Bekir Engin Eser, has received DKK 2.9 million for the project called ‘Exploiting the Biocatalytic Potential of Novel Polymethoxyflavone Demethylases’, which is about using an enzyme from intestinal bacterium for organic synthesis and valorisation of lignum (wood pulp).
"Enzymes are nature's powerful tools for catalysing biochemical reactions, and they’re particularly well-suited for sustainable and green synthesis, so they have great potential for many environmentally friendly applications. Valorisation of lignum has huge potential for bioproduction of commodity chemicals needed for the green transition, for example, and we’re eager to get started on the project," says the assistant professor.
The other two projects at the Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering are:
- 'An overseen role of FERMentation of L-fucOSE by intestinal microbiota’, FERMOSE, headed by Associate Professor Clarissa Schwab
- 'A yeast-based platform for optimisation and selection of therapeutic heavy chain only antibodies', POST-HAB, headed by Associate Professor Edzard Spillner