Team:TU Darmstadt


Revision as of 02:56, 27 September 2012 by Adrian E (Talk | contribs)

Welcome to the TU Darmstadt iGEM 2012 page



The increasing environmental pollution with plastic waste, like bottles, textiles, and injection-molded components, has created a serious risk for nature and humans. Currently over 150 million tons of plastics are produced per year, the major share being polymer polyethylene terephthalate (PET). With annual global production exceeding 100 million tons in 2010, PET on its own has created a serious waste issue. While in Western countries less than 70% of PET production are recovered through conventional recycling, a huge amount of PET in developing countries is disposed of as unprocessed waste in the environment. This often makes it into rivers and thus finally ends up in the world’s oceans.

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Recently it was discovered that erosion of PET in a maritime environment ultimately leads to the creation of nanoparticles with undesired characteristics, as these particles tend to accumulate toxic substances on their surface. There are already some areas in the world’s oceans where measurements have found the concentration of plastic micro-particles to be higher than those of plankton. This is highly alarming, especially since the adverse long-term effects of these particles are yet unknown.

In view of this growing environmental threat and serious health risk, developing new methods for PET degradation has become an urgent issue. So far, biological processes play no role in recycling, as its chemical properties make PET inert to biological degradation. At present there is no microorganism known which is able to digest synthetic plastics.

Our team from TU Darmstadt designed a bacterial recycling system employing E. coli that uses PET waste as a resource for synthesis of new chemical compounds. The proposed solution pursues PET decomposition into its monomers, transportation into E. coli and leading via terephthalic acid (TPA) to a high-value end product (e.g catechol or amino acids). The latter’s specification is determined by the inserted enzymes to build new metabolic pathways.

Our mission

The declared goal of our project is to generate a genetically modified micro-organism, which will decompose PET (Polyethylene terephthalate, the main component of plastic bags, plastic bottles etc.) into useful monomers. So far, PET is deemed non-biodegradable and there is yet no known way to recycle it completely. The respective process has to be designed in such a way that the outputs produced can subsequently serve as useful raw material input for other microbial systems. Preferably, these materials should become an economically attractive basis for further useful compounds applicable in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.

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More information concerning the how's and who's of this project can be found in the project description.


02/11 Launch of the iGEM TU Darmstadt website

The official TU Darmstadt website of the iGEM 2012 team is now online. Hence we will inform you about current events and the progress of the team.

03/05 First media response

We've got our fist media response. Our project was published in labor&more (in German) a monthly laboratory journal. Want to take a look inside? Feel free to read (in German).

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03/31 iGEM 2012 registration closes

Now it's official! The TU Darmstadt participates in the iGEM competition for the very first time. Together with 11 teams from Germany and a total of 193 teams that registered for 2012.

Inessa Popova did an amazing job creating a plushy mascot based on our scrawly sketches and is its name.

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04/26 First Sponsor(s)

Our iGEM Team was able to gain its first sponsor. We persuaded the people of BRAIN, a local (Zwingenberg) biotechnology company to supply us with lab equipment and consumables. For more information take a look at our sponsors section.

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05/02 Laboratory work in progress

The first iGEM lab of the TU Darmstadt is ready to go. We would like to thank Prof. Simon, Prof. Warzecha and Tamara Hess who gave us advise on the material requirements for the targeted experiments and provided us with the necessary working space. A second lab, a 7th floor space with a breathtaking view on the city of Darmstadt and skyline of Frankfurt, will be available soon.

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05/03 BioBricks

The BioBricks arrived and we're already running out of pipette tips, We are excitedly anticipating the first colonies to grow.

05/08 Donation of Eppendorf AG

With great joy and pleasure we received a generous donation of the Eppendorf AG, presented to us by Dr. Cora Burmeister. Now that we're high on tips we can go right back at work.

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06/15 Project description online

We've got it on black and white. Our team is developing a microbial recycling system called that is able to degradate and use PET for its metabolism.

Our Project:

06/22 Achema

We attended the Achema in Frankfurt. The world exhibition congress on chemical engineering, environmental protection and biotechnology using the opportunity to meet the iGEM team Frankfurt.

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06/26 4. SEC annual meeting

Our iGEM team took the opportunity and showcased two posters on the SEC annual meeting. For more details visit the GDCh website or our symposia section.

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07/02 Biotechnology 2020+

Over 200 representatives from academia, business and politics gathered at the Biotechnology 2020+ event in Berlin to discuss possible future developments in biotechnology. Among them were members of all eleven German iGEM teams, including ours. This gave us a perfect chance to present and discuss our projects with the others and people of the scientific community.

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07/03 Panel discussion

We featured a panel discussion in the premises of the Staatstheater Darmstadt as contribution to the human practice section. As a result of the panel discussion our team was invited to the Umweltbörse Darmstadt.


07/27 CAS meeting in Munich

We took the chance and went to the CAS symposium at Munich and had a call on our sponsor Ella Biotech.

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08/25 Umweltbörse Darmstadt

In consequence of the panel discussion and the decision of the German iGEM teams to host a roadshow in their corresponding cities we stood up to the challenge and deployed our pavilion in the center of Darmstadt.

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09/07 Safety

We passed the first real deadline. We've been assigned to the environment track, finalised the official team profile and polished our safety section.

09/07 Classes

In the context of the human practice idea we invited a biology class of the Ludwig-Georgs-Gymnasium (LGG) to a one day excurse on biotechnology. For more information on what we did visit the classes section.

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09/26 Judging form

It's medal time. Is it? We finished the judging form and are expectantly looking forward to the jurys decision.

09/27 Wiki freeze

The time (4:59:59 in Germany) has finally come to wave goodby to our wiki (the chance to edit it, to be more precise). We are glad, that we made it and have the chance to sleep again.

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10/03 Printing

We designed a 3D and hope that we are able to print him in time.

10/05 iGEM 2012 Regional Jamborees: Europe, Asia, Latin America

We are ready to hit the road to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. We'll finally be able to present the results of our hard work and have a very good time with all the other dear iGEM participants.

10/12 iGEM 2012 Regional Jamborees: Americas-East, Americas-West

The regional jamborees will soon be over and the team selection for the world championship announced.

11/02 iGEM 2012 World Championship Jamboree, MIT

We've made it to the finals (maybe). We're going all in and wish the other teams all the best!