Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 97, Issue 7, pp 3225–3238 | Cite as

Activated zeolite—suitable carriers for microorganisms in anaerobic digestion processes?

  • S. Weiß
  • M. Lebuhn
  • D. Andrade
  • A. Zankel
  • M. Cardinale
  • R. Birner-Gruenberger
  • W. Somitsch
  • B. J. Ueberbacher
  • G. M. Guebitz
Bioenergy and biofuels


Plant cell wall structures represent a barrier in the biodegradation process to produce biogas for combustion and energy production. Consequently, approaches concerning a more efficient de-polymerisation of cellulose and hemicellulose to monomeric sugars are required. Here, we show that natural activated zeolites (i.e. trace metal activated zeolites) represent eminently suitable mineral microhabitats and potential carriers for immobilisation of microorganisms responsible for anaerobic hydrolysis of biopolymers stabilising related bacterial and methanogenic communities. A strategy for comprehensive analysis of immobilised anaerobic populations was developed that includes the visualisation of biofilm formation via scanning electron microscopy and confocal laser scanning microscopy, community and fingerprint analysis as well as enzyme activity and identification analyses. Using SDS polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, hydrolytical active protein bands were traced by congo red staining. Liquid chromatography/mass spectroscopy revealed cellulolytical endo- and exoglucanase (exocellobiohydrolase) as well as hemicellulolytical xylanase/mannase after proteolytic digestion. Relations to hydrolytic/fermentative zeolite colonisers were obtained by using single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis (SSCP) based on amplification of bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA fragments. Thereby, dominant colonisers were affiliated to the genera Clostridium, Pseudomonas and Methanoculleus. The specific immobilisation on natural zeolites with functional microbes already colonising naturally during the fermentation offers a strategy to systematically supply the biogas formation process responsive to population dynamics and process requirements.


Biogas Zeolites Hemicellulases Cellulases Microbial community Grass silage 



This study was performed within the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology ACIB and has been kindly supported by IPUS GmbH (Austria), the Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth (BMWFJ), the Federal Ministry of Traffic, Innovation and Technology (bmvit), the Styrian Business Promotion Agency SFG, the Standortagentur Tirol and ZIT–Technology Agency of the City of Vienna through the COMET-Funding Program managed by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG. Many thanks go to contributors of the collaborating organisations and institutes (FELMI-ZFE, ZMF and LfL).

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (PDF 82 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Weiß
    • 1
    • 7
  • M. Lebuhn
    • 2
  • D. Andrade
    • 2
  • A. Zankel
    • 3
  • M. Cardinale
    • 1
  • R. Birner-Gruenberger
    • 4
  • W. Somitsch
    • 5
  • B. J. Ueberbacher
    • 6
  • G. M. Guebitz
    • 1
    • 7
    • 8
  1. 1.Institute of Environmental BiotechnologyGraz University of TechnologyGrazAustria
  2. 2.Bavarian State Research Centre for AgricultureFreisingGermany
  3. 3.Institute for Electron MicroscopyGraz University of TechnologyGrazAustria
  4. 4.Proteomics Core Facility, Center for Medical Research and Institute of PathologyMedical University of GrazGrazAustria
  5. 5.Engineering ConsultantViennaAustria
  6. 6.IPUS Mineral- & Umwelttechnologie GmbHRottenmannAustria
  7. 7.ACIB Austrian Centre of Industrial BiotechnologyGrazAustria
  8. 8.Department of Agrobiotechnology Tulln, Institute of Environmental BiotechnologyUniversity of Natural Resources and Life ScienceTullnAustria

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