It was founded in 1829 at the initiative of Hans Christian Ørsted as Denmark’s first polytechnic, and is today ranked among Europe’s leading engineering institutions, and the best engineering university in the Nordic countries.
Technical University of Denmark research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Researchers synthesize a rare critical mineral for first time – February 23, 2016
- Laser Printing a Nanoscale Mona Lisa Could Revolutionize Reproduction Technology – December 20, 2015
- Power Paper: Storing electricity in paper – December 4, 2015
- End to contaminated drinking water – October 18, 2015
- Squeeze to Remove Heat: Elastocaloric Materials Enable More Efficient, ‘Green’ Cooling – March 25, 2015
- Smartphone understands gestures – October 11, 2014
- Dynamic encryption keeps secrets
- X-ray imaging paves way for novel solar cell production
- Mega Wind Turbines of 20 MW
- Researchers overcome size hurdle in quest for invisibility cloak
Microbes in the gut can “disarm” antibiotics, leading to antibiotic resistance and incurable infections. A new method makes it possible to quickly detect resistance genes and, hence, choose the most efficient type of antibiotic treatment.
Taking antibiotics to fight an infection won’t necessarily solve your problems. Often, natural occurring bacteria in the gut harbor several resistance genes. This means that the gut bacteria may exchange genes with the infectious bacteria, resulting in antibiotic resistance. Therefore, knowing the resistome – i.e. the pool of resistance genes present in the gut microbiota – can improve treatment immensely.
Now researchers from The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability – DTU Biosustain – at Technical University of Denmark have developed a super-fast cheap method called poreFUME that can shed light on the pool of resistance genes in the gut.
“With this method, you will get an overview of the resistome in 1-2 days, and, hence, be able to start the treatment of the infection sooner and with better results than before,” says Eric van der Helm, Postdoc at The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability – DTU Biosustain – at Technical University of Denmark.
The research has recently been published in the journal Nucleic Acid Research.
Antibiotics resistance is causing 700,000 annual deaths
The poreFUME method using nanopore sequencing is very rapid compared to current methods, because it doesn’t require growth of the faecal bacteria, which takes time and can be difficult. Also, the data from the device is streamed in real time, so the user doesn’t need to wait until the end of a ‘run’ to access information about the experiment.
“We are quite convinced, that rapid resistome profiling could lead to personalized antibiotic treatment in high risk patients”
Today, getting resistome-data from a patient takes weeks. In the meantime, the resistome profile might change dramatically, and the patient will suffer from failing health.
Every year 700,000 people die of resistant infections, in particular hospitalized patients; and the problem seems to be growing. For many patients, a quick assessment of their personal pool of resistance genes in their feces can be lifesaving.
“Our research shows, that this method provides a promising alternative to other sequencing methods and that it can be used to rapidly profile the resistome of microbial communities in for instance the gut. We are quite convinced, that rapid resistome profiling could lead to personalized antibiotic treatment in high risk patients,” says Professor and co-author Morten Sommer from DTU Biosustain.
Cheap runs make the difference
The study was carried out as a collaboration between DTU and co-author Dr. Willem van Schaik from the University Medical Center Utrecht, who provided access to an intensive care unit patient (ICU). In this study, five feces samples from the ICU patient were assessed. After lung transplantation surgery, due to Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the patient was treated with four different kinds of antibiotics to prevent and fight infections. Samples were collected both upon admission to intensive care unit, during stay and several months after hospitalisation.
The results showed that the poreFUME method was 97% accurate, when compared to standardized resistome profiling methods. This percentage is sufficient when measuring the resistome.
Furthermore, the poreFUME method is much cheaper than current methods, primarily due to the low cost of the so-called MinION; a small handheld DNA-sequencing device, which scientists can start to use for 1,000 Dollars. In comparison, conventional so-called next generation sequencing devices are priced at between 50,000 Dollars and 10 million Dollars.
“If hospitals can purchase equipment for resistome profiling cheaper than today, it opens up for better profiling of more patients and hopefully fewer cases of bacterial resistance,” says co-author and Researcher Lejla Imamovic from DTU Biosustain.
An international group of researchers has synthesized an extremely rare mineral and used it as a catalyst precursor to improve two reactions that are of great importance to the chemical industry.
Using a technique called supercritical anti-solvent precipitation (SAS), the group produced large quantities of highly pure georgeite, a disordered copper-hydroxycarbonate that is found naturally only in Australia and in an old copper mine in Snowdonia, Wales.
The group tested georgeite’s catalytic activity against commercial catalysts that have been used for a half-century in the water-gas shift reaction, in which water reacts with carbon dioxide to produce hydrogen.
“We found that the georgeite was a superb catalyst for the water-gas shift reaction and had a much higher performance compared to the commercial catalyst currently used in industry,” said Graham Hutchings, director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute at Cardiff University in Wales.
Hydrogen is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of methanol and ammonia, which form the basis of hundreds of chemicals, including fuels, plastics, paints, solvents and fertilizer.
The group also found that their synthesized georgeite material was highly effective in carrying out methanol synthesis, in which CO2 and hydrogen are combined to make methanol.
“Catalysts based on copper-zinc oxide minerals have been used for many decades to catalyze both of these reactions,” said Christopher J. Kiely, professor of materials science and chemical engineering at Lehigh. “Our georgeite-derived materials represent the first time something potentially better has come along.”
The group reported its findings this week in Nature magazine in an article titled “Stable amorphous georgeite as a precursor to a high-activity catalyst.” The article was authored by researchers from Cardiff, Lehigh, the UK Catalysis Hub, University College London, Diamond Light Source in the United Kingdom, the University of Liverpool, the Technical University of Denmark, and Johnson Matthey, a multinational chemicals and sustainable technologies company headquartered in Royston, UK.
A readily synthesized precursor
Georgeite belongs to a family of minerals called copper hydroxycarbonates that are widely used as catalyst precursors in the chemical industry. Scientists are familiar with other hydroxycarbonates, such as malachite, aurichalcite and rosasite, but know little about georgeite because of its extreme rarity, low purity, instability and highly disordered nature.
Chemists at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute synthesized georgeite using SAS, in which CO2 is subjected to conditions of heat and pressure that put it into a supercritical state where it displays the characteristics of both a liquid and a gas.
“Supercritical CO2 expands like a gas to fill up a volume while retaining the viscosity of a liquid,” said Kiely. “It’s an unusual state of matter and has the ability when bubbled through a solution to make solids precipitate out very quickly. Supercritical CO2 is also used for processes such as decaffeinating coffee.”
Chemists at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute synthesized georgeite by dissolving a copper-zinc-oxide precursor in an organic solvent and then passing supercritical CO2 through the solvent to rapidly precipitate out the georgeite.
“[We have shown] that stable georgeite can be readily synthesized using supercritical carbon dioxide as an anti-solvent in a precipitation process,” the researchers wrote in Nature. “The synthetic georgeite materials are precursors to highly active methanol synthesis and superior water gas shift catalysts as compared to those currently prepared from crystalline malachite.
“This new route to georgeite will open up new opportunities for the use of this important material in a number of applications.”
A crucial role for crystals
Researchers at Lehigh and the Technical University of Denmark used advanced electron microscopy techniques to structurally characterize the georgeite and determine why it produces such high performing catalysts.
“We looked at the georgeite with an aberration-corrected STEM [scanning transmission electron microscope],” said Kiely. “Georgeite had been thought to be completely amorphous, that is, more like glass than a crystalline mineral. We found that georgeite is in fact about 90 percent amorphous but has 2-nanometer crystals of copper oxide embedded within it.
“The actual catalyst is not a pure georgeite material,” said Kiely. “The georgeite, when deliberately doped with some zinc, is really a precursor to the active catalyst. It needs to be calcined, or heated in air, and then reduced in hydrogen gas before it can be used as a catalyst.”
To learn what happened during calcination and reduction, the group turned to colleagues at the Technical University of Denmark, which has an environmental transmission electron microscope (ETEM).
“The ETEM is a very specialized instrument,” said Kiely. “The beauty of it is that you can take a zincian georgeite precursor, heat it up in the microscope under a gaseous environment and then watch how it changes during the process. This allowed us to dynamically view the precursor material as it transformed into the active catalyst.
“What we saw with the ETEM is that when calcined zincian georgeite is reduced in hydrogen, it forms very tiny copper particles intimately supported on nanoscopic zinc oxide grains. This special nanostructure is responsible for the good catalytic properties.
“We compared this with the conventional catalyst materials derived from a crystalline malachite, and found that our zincian georgeite results in a much finer microstructure, with smaller copper and zinc oxide particles, which ultimately contributes to the superior catalytic performance.”
The synthetic zincian georgeite catalyst, said Kiely, has the additional advantage that its composition can be easily tuned, or altered, by adjusting the ratio of copper atoms to zinc atoms in the starting solution. It can also be made in large quantities.