The B.Factory - Molecular Biotechnology, Bioreactors, Biofuels and Food research group - develops research activities aiming at the development of biotechnology, chemical and food industry and the advanced training of human resources. The B.Factory group makes use of competences on life sciences, food and chemical technology to foster the development of a knowledge-based bio-economy (KBBE), leading to improved growth and competitiveness in traditional sectors, such as food and agriculture, and help fostering emerging sectors, such as bio-based products and biofuels.
One of the main features of the B.Factory group is the close cooperation of these three complementary and interdisciplinary areas of research that, taken together, allow for the existence of a creative and successful scientific environment on biotechnology and bioengineering research.
Within the Molecular Biotechnology and Microbial Physiology area, the developed activities make use of molecular biotechnology tools, namely genetic, metabolic, physiological and protein engineering, for the development and intensification of bioprocesses with focus on the utilization of renewable feedstock, and production of added-value metabolites and recombinant proteins with applications in the food, energy, chemical and biomedical industries.
To be successfully implemented, a bioprocess requires that molecular biotechnology research activities on the development and intensification of bioprocesses are complemented by engineering/technology-driven activities, this being the main focus of the work developed by the Bioprocess Engineering sub-group. Within this group, engineering tools are applied to design strategies for process intensification, such as low-cost fermenters, alternative novel reactor concepts, development of continuous multiphase bioreactors and for process integration. Relevant activities also include the development of advanced treatments of biomass to make all fractions available for further processing into high-value intermediates and products, including biofuels. It is clear that a close integration must occur between these two-subgroups to provide an efficient reply to the challenges associated with the development of a Biotechnology process.
It is also evident that Biotechnology has a main role on the food sector being several food products obtained through biotechnology. Moreover, very significant amounts of by-products are produced by the food sector; in particular, lignocellulosic materials and cheese whey that are expected to be main substrates e.g. for biotechnology fermentation processes. The importance of biotechnology in the food industry and the use of by-products from the food industry for the production of chemicals and energy gave rise to a sub-group on Food Science and Technology. This sub-group addresses some of the relevant issues pointed out above on the use of fermentation and enzyme technology and on the use of food industry by-products and has extended its activities for new areas of interest such as novel technologies for food processing, novel packaging systems and food nanotechnology. Developed activities aim at enhancing the functionality, quality and nutritional value of food, including organoleptic aspects, together with the integration of advanced technologies into food production.
2 The Bioprocess Engineering