Technology Cluster Bioengineering Technology
Moving science into practical solutions
The cluster Bioengineering Technology aims to translate basic research and to enhance practical applications for the food and beverage industry, sustainable crop production, sustainable livestock production, ecosystem management and remediation, and biotechnology in general.
The research groups involved are active on four different Technology Campuses:
- Laboratory for Process Microbial Ecology and Bioinspirational Management (Technology Campus De Nayer)
- Laboratory of Sustainable Food Production (Technology Campus Geel)
- Laboratory of Enzyme, Fermentation and Brewing Technology (Technology Campus Ghent)
- Laboratory of Technology and Quality of Animal Products (Technology Campus Ghent)
- Laboratory of Microbial and Bio-Chemical Technology (Technology Campus Ostend)
The technology cluster brings together researchers from four KU Leuven campuses to develop research in the following domains:
Studying the structure and functioning of microbial communities and their members in natural and man-made environments and processes in order to better understand, manage and control these processes.
Development and implementation of molecular detection tools (diagnostics).
Functional Molecular Biology
Studying specific functions of microorganisms, populations and communities by molecular methods.
Identification and (functional) characterization of genes and gene products that are responsible for particular phenotypes of interest.
Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology
- Screening of microorganisms and genetic modification for the production of industrially relevant biomolecules (small scale).
- Evaluation of disinfection techniques for biofilm treatment
Biostatistics & Computional Genomics
- Data analysis using appropriate statistical methods.
- Processing, assembly and analysis of “next generation sequencing” data (“(comparative) genomics”, “metagenomics” and “metatranscriptomics”).
Soil and Environment
Sustainable soil and ecosystem management
Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Sustainable plant production
- Integrated crop protection
- Plant physiology and cultivation optimisation
- Insect-microbe-plant interactions
Sustainable animal production
- Animal welfare
- Animal engineering
- Animal behaviour
Lab4Food (Food & Feed)
- Texture and rheology, including sensory analysis
- Microbial quality
- Nutritional and chemical research
- Food quality systems and legislation
- New food matrices, such as insects
Sustainable management of inorganic secondary resources
- Bioleaching - biometalurgy
Malting and Brewing Technology
The role of barley and malt in relation to beer flavour quality and stability
Prolonged beer flavour stability through anti-oxidative wort and beer production, combined with cost-effective, fast, and innovative brewing technologies
Development and implementation of novel technologies for beer bittering and aromatisation based on hops/hop products
Optimisation of the quality/stability of commercial beers and development of new beers with innovative flavour profiles
Controlled, mixed fermentation
Enzyme and Fermentation Technology
- Characterisation of enzymes and functional proteins for a wide range of applications.
- Production, purification and immobilisation of enzymes for process development of innovative food ingredients
- Development of starter cultures for food & feed
- Fermentation projects using bacteria, yeasts or moulds
- Production of bio-ethanol from waste streams, including pre-treatment of renewable sources
- Microbiological conversion of side streams into products with added economic value
- Formation/inhibitoin of biofilms
- High value product development
- Antioxidant activity of microalgae
- Applications in food and feed
Technology and Quality of Animal Products
Understanding the application potential of functional ingredients in meat and fish products
Understanding the structure of emulsified meat products
Processing of meat and fish products: mechanical manipulations, brining/salting, drying, smoking, fermentation and thermal treatments
Quality assessment of meat and fish products: structure/texture of intermediates and produced meat products, colour formation and stability, sensorial characteristics, prevalence of process-induced contaminants such as biogenic amines and N-nitrosamines
Sustainable water management and water as secondary resource
- Reuse of water
- Electrodialysis on pilot scale
- Recuperation of nutrients (N, P, K)
The infrastructure of the technology cluster is dispersed over four KU Leuven campuses housing state of the art equipment and facilities.
- Greenhouse and climate room facilities
- Pilot installation for electrodialysis including EDBM and EDR
- Pilot installation for meat and fish processing
- Pilot scale insect rearing plant
- Pilot scale baking equipment
- Pilot scale biofilm monitoring device
- Automated small scale and large scale fermenters
- All equipment needed for modern molecular biology research, including several (real-time) PCR thermocyclers, incubators, freezers, centrifuges, hybridization ovens, MinION sequencer, DNA, RNA and protein analysis equipment
- A complete Omnilog identification system
- A hypoxic/anoxic workstation
- Multiple 2-arm and 4-arm olfactometers
- Equipment for meat and fish products analyses: rheology, texture, analysis of macro nutrients (water, fat, protein, salt content), portable colour meter, microbiological analyses, HPLC (UV, RI, Fluorescence detectors), GC-MS, GC-TEATray seal and chamber packaging machines
- Sensory room with 9 tasting units
- C/N analyser
- Texture analysers
- Three pilot brewing lines, including a 5 hl pilot-scale, state-of-the-art and fully automated brewery, fermenters (10 x 50 l, 4 x 90 l, 4 x 100 l, 2 x 500 l, 3 x 800 l) and a commercial-grade automated bottling machine
- Supercritical fluid extraction units for the preparation of aroma products via selective extraction of raw materials such as hops and spices
- Sterilisable stirred tank bioreactors from 1 to 100 L working volume with full process control capabilities (pH, temperature, aeration, dissolved oxygen concentration) for research, process development and scale-up using batch, fed-batch or continuous mode, including high-cell density fermentation
- 8 x 2L Photobioreactors for continuous cultivation of microalgae
- Pilot-scale airlift photobioreactors with pH-control for cultivation of microalgae (4x 120 L)
- Lab-scale and pilot-scale (250 L) facilities for extraction
- Centrifugation and membrane filtration units on a modular basis with capacities up to 100-200 L/h for concentration and purification following fermentation
- Thin-film evaporators
- Batch-wise and continuous rectification columns
- Isolation (chemical, enzymatic and mechanical cell lysis e.g. sonicator), purification (ion exchange, gel filtration, hydrophobic and affinity chromatography) and characterisation of crude enzyme extracts and purified fractions (SDS-PAGE, IEF, soluble protein content, activity and stability testing, study of kinetic parameters
- Specialised analytical equipment for the determination of volatiles related to raw materials and final product characteristics: automated injection/extraction devices (Combipal systems), gas chromatographs with different detectors (FID, PFPD, MS, MS/MS), Selected ion flow tube mass spectrometer (SIFT-MS) equipped with automated HS sampling and sampling via Micro Chamber/Thermal extractor
- Olfactometric unit coupled to a GC-MS device
- Analytical equipment (HPLC, UPLC with UV, diode array or refractive index detector) for the determination of non-volatile compounds in raw materials and finished products: carbohydrates, amino acids, hop acids, organic acids, polyphenols
- The Technology Cluster strives for complementarities with all sections of the KU Leuven Department of Microbial and Molecular Systems. Our research aims at bridging the gap between more fundamental research and the practical needs of SMEs.
- An extensive network of SMEs, research centers and universities in Belgium and throughout the rest of the world has been developed through collaborative research projects, EU projects and consultancy.
- Several members of the Technology Cluster participate in the Leuven Institute for Beer Research (LIBR; www.LIBR.be), the Cluster for Sustainable Inorganic Material Management (SIM2) or the Leuven Food Science and Nutrition Research Centre (LFoRCe)