Bacterial cellulose (BC) is a natural biomaterial that is of interest in many fields due to its high purity compared with plant-derived cellulose. We are optimising BC biosynthesis in Gluconacetobacter xylinus, transferring the system to E. coli, and functionalising the material using proteins in order to expand its properties.
BC has seen use in clothing and health foods, but we develop its application to the global issue of water purification. Rising demand for limited freshwater supplies will lead to more than half of the global population suffering severe water stress by 2030. Improved filtration techniques would help relieve this problem.
The porosity of BC and our synthetic attachment of contaminant-specific binding and catabolic proteins make for a flexible, modular water filter. Our manufactured biomaterial would augment water recycling and reclamation on local and industrial scales, helping to alleviate water stress.