The industrial revolution has astronomically improved the quality of life; however, environmental pollution became one of its severe consequences. Fortunately, research and technological development are continuous processes with far-reaching applications. As the ecological issues progressed, so did the scientific applications to curb the negative impact on the environment. Environmental biotechnology is an emerging application-based field of science that integrates the scientific principles with engineering tools of biotechnology to provide services aimed at resolving ecological issues.
The 21st century witnessed the application of biotechnology to resolve the current environmental issues and provide a platform focusing on the development of sustainable societies. Environmental biotechnology concentrates primarily on the following key domains:
Treatment of solid waste and wastewater
The majority of municipal waste is generated from households and is quite rich in organic matter, which can be utilized for several microorganisms. The complex organic waste can be broken down into simpler components like carbon dioxide, methane, and water under anaerobic conditions.
Bioremediation for removal of man-made xenobiotics
Man-made synthesized compounds such as pesticides, insecticides are toxic and can accumulate within the cells of living organisms, further resulting in biomagnification. Conversion of such man-made xenobiotics into simpler compounds assisted by microorganisms is called biotransformation, and it can prevent the accumulation of such compounds at toxic levels.
Production of biofuels for replacement of fossil fuel utilization
Biomass can be converted into compounds with high calorific values, such as bioethanol, with the help of microorganisms. Production of such biofuels can reduce the dependence on non-renewable as well as non-degradable fossil fuels. Biofuels are a renewable source of energy that can promote sustainable development.
Bio-monitoring to ensure environmental safety
Biosensors comprise of biological entities capable of sensing specific signals for the detection of toxic pollutants (chemical or biological) in the vicinity. The biosensors can help in the early detection, monitoring, and treatment of such contaminants to ensure environmental safety.
Following techniques can be implemented in the domains mentioned above for ensuring sustainable development:
- Improved biodegradation assisted by enzyme engineering
- Development of enhanced microbial strains for enhanced bioremediation and biofuel production
- Utilization of bio-waste for production of renewable energy and biofuels
- Process engineering and optimization for improved bioremediation
- Technological development for the treatment of contaminated sites
Identification and development of cutting edge technologies will further accelerate the treatment of ecological contaminants in the coming times.