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The Microbial Retting Environment of Hibiscus Cannabinus and Its Implications in Broader Applications

Description: Fiber-yielding plants is an area of increased interest due to the potential use in a variety of green-based materials. These biocomposites can be incorporated into multiple uses; for example, to replace building materials and interior vehicular paneling. The research here aims to focus in on the crop Hibiscus cannabinus for utilization into these functions. H. cannabinus is economically attractive due to the entire process being able to be accomplished here in the United States. The plant can be grown in a relatively short growth period (120-180 days), and then processed and incorporated in a biocomposite. The plant fiber must first be broken down into a useable medium. This is accomplished by the retting process, which occurs when microbial constituents breakdown the heteropolysaccharides releasing the fiber. The research aims to bridge the gap between the primitive process of retting and current techniques in molecular and microbiology. Utilizing a classical microbiological approach, which entailed enrichment and isolation of pectinase-producing bacteria for downstream use in augmented microbial retting experiments. The tracking of the bacteria was accomplished by using the 16S rRNA which acts as “barcodes” for bacteria. Next-generation sequencing can then provide data from each environment telling the composition and microbial diversity of each tested variable. The main environments tested are: a natural environment, organisms contributed by the plant material solely, and an augmented version in which pectinase-producing bacteria are added. In addition, a time-course experiment was performed on the augmented environment providing data of the shift to an anaerobic environment. Lastly, a drop-in set was performed using each isolate separately to determine which contributes to the shift in microbial organization. This research provided a much needed modernization of the retting technique. Previous studies have been subject to simple clone libraries and growth plate assays and next-generation sequencing will bring the understanding of ...
Date: May 2015
Creator: Visi, David K.
Partner: UNT Libraries