Introduction:

In the last decades, the palm oil industry increased on an extreme level and, because of great demand, it still does. The main product from the palm plant, palm oil and palm kernel oil, are not dispensable in today ́s society. Because of their characteristic properties, they are widely used in in many industries.

Finding a natural substitute is very difficult due to its composition and the efficiency of the oil plant. Malaysia and Indonesia are leading the worldwide production of the oil, not always using sustainable methods. The consequences for the environment are devastating: The deforestation of the rainforest, increasing CO2 emissions and the destruction of habitats for numerous animal and plant species. Furthermore, social injustice and land conflicts are daily fare.

The aim of our Project:

We want to find a way to produce palm kernel oil using microorganisms, especially E.coli. Our goal is to retain most of the positive traits from the natural product, which causes the oil to be such an essential resource for industry. The production of fatty acids and their esterification to triglycerides as energy storage is a natural process in all organisms. We make use of this natural way of synthesis by modifying the expression of fatty acids with appropriate carbohydrate chain length on a molecular level. The overall combustion of the triglycerides represents the main characteristics of the products.

Project Overview:

In the lab:

  1. Production of fatty acids in E. coli

Mutations (S122K, Y145K, and L146K) of the TesA gene in E. coli to receive the desired fatty acids:

  • lauric acid (C12:0)
  • myristic acid (C14:0)
  • oleic acid (C18:1)
  1. Esterification
  • upregulation of the genes plsB, pgpB and fadD
  • integration and upregulation of the gene atfA from the strand acinetobacter baylyi ADP1
  • deletion of the gene dgkA

 

Outside the lab:

  1. Survey among different target groups: consumers, students and passers­by
  • catch up general opinions on palm kernel oil and personal consumption behavior
  • gain better understanding of people’s current level of knowledge about the problems associated with palm oil production
  1. Interviews with companies and a plantation owner
  • usage of palm(kernel)oil with aspects of advantages and disadvantages in industrial processes and possible alternatives
  • view of people living and working in main cultivation areas
  1. Effects of our project on environment and economy
  • main problems with palm oil production include economic and social drawbacks, deforestation of the rainforest with negative impact on biosphere and wildlife as well as CO2 level
  • is it possible to replace conventional palm oil with biotechnological alternatives?