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Making Use of Microorganisms

14.1 Biotechnology is not new

1. Today many industrial process use biotechnology

2. Biotechnology means using other living organisms to carry out process to make
substances we want.
3. The term is only used when microorganisms are used or when plants or animals
are used to produce something other than food. So farming plants for crops is not
4. Although the term biotechnology only originated in the 1970s, we have been
using organisms to make things for us, for thousands of years.
5. Yeast has been used to make alcoholic drinks, bread, yoghurt and cheese. Bacteria
have been used to make compost.
6. Recently we have learned to use bacteria and protoctists to make waste substances
such as sewage harmless. Useful fuels such as Biogas can be made by these
processes also.
7. Even more recently, the last 20 years genetic engineering has opened up a whole
new world for biotechnology.
8. With genetic engineering, it is now possible for us to introduce almost any gene
we like into microorganisms to make the proteins the gene codes.
9. This allows us to grow bacteria which make human hormones, or plants which
produce drugs.

14.2 Microorganisms include viruses, bacteria, some fungi and protoctists

1. A micro-organism is any organism that is too small to seen without a microscope.

2. Microorganisms cause diseases and make food go bad.
3. However some microorganisms are very useful to us. For example, bacteria and
fungi have essential roles to play in the carbon and nitrogen cycles where some of
them act as decomposers, breaking down the remains of dead animals and plants.

14.3 Viruses can only be grown in living cells

1. You will not be able to carry out any experiments on viruses, because viruses are
very difficult to grow because they only grow inside living cells.
2. Viruses only reproduce inside living cells. They even cause bacteria to become ill.
3. Some time s scientist do have grow bacteria to find out exactly what type of virus
has caused someone to fall ill.
4. They normally do this by injecting a sample of the virus to a hens egg, or a culture
of human cells
5. It takes a quite a long time for the viruses to reproduce enough for the scientists to
a get a large sample of them.
14.4 Bacteria and fungi can be grown on agar jelly

1. Bacteria and fungi can be grown quite easily.

2. For bacteria and fungi to grow and reproduce quickly, you need supple them with
warmth, food source, water and oxygen.
3. If we want to grow many, then we should provide a lot of these.
4. Large number of microorganisms can be grown inside a fermenter, which supplies
all their needs.
5. If we want to stop them growing, then we need to deprive them of one of their
needs. We do this when we want to preserve food, a refrigerator cut off their heat.

Sewage Treatment
14.5 Sewage can harm people and the environment

1. Sewage is waste liquid which has come from houses and industry in cities and
2. Some of it is run off from the streets into the drains when it rains. Some of it has
come from people’s bathrooms, kitchens and some of it comes from factories.
3. Sewage is mostly water with other substances such as urine, faeces, toilet paper,
detergents, oil and other chemicals.
4. Sewage should not be allowed to run into rivers or the sea before it is treated. This is
because it can harm the environment and people. Untreated sewage is called raw
5. Raw sewage contains many pathogenic microorganisms. People who come into
contact with raw sewage can become ill. It contains many substance which provides
nutrients for plants and microorganisms. These can cause eutrophication.
6. It is therefore very important for sewage to be treated to remove any pathogenic
organisms and most of the nutrients, before it is released as effluent.
7. Microorganisms play an important role in this process.
8. When sewage has been treated, the water in it can be used again, sewage treatment
enables water to be recycled.
9. If did not do this, then there would be severe water shortages in many parts of the

14.6 Liquids from sewage can be treated by two different methods.

1. First sewage is passed through screens. These trap large objects such as grit.
2. The screened liquid is then left for a while in the settlement tanks, where any other
insoluble particles drift into the bottom and form sediment.
3. The resulting liquid flows into the primary settlement tank, which separates the
organic sludge from the rest of the liquid.
4. The resulting liquid can be cleaned in two ways
5. Trickling filters:
o The liquid from the primary settlement tanks is sprinkled over a trickling
filer bed. This is made of small stones and clinker. \
o Many different aerobic microorganisms live on the stones. Some of them
are aerobic bacteria which feed on various nutrients in the sewage. The
Protoctists feed on the bacteria. The fungi feed saprophytically on soluble
o The liquid is trickled slowly onto the surface of the stones through holes in
a rotating pipe. This makes sure that air gets mixed with the liquid.
o The liquid trickles quite slowly through the stones, giving the
microorganisms plenty of time to work on it.
o By the time water filters through, the liquid is odorless, clear and contains
no pathogenic microorganisms.
6. Activated sludge:
o The liquid from the settlement tanks flows into aeration tanks. These
contain aerobic microorganisms, mostly bacteria protoctists.
o O2 is provided by bubbling air through the tank.
o The microorganisms make the sewage harmless.
o It is called activated because the microorganisms are present.
o Sludge is the semi solid waste particles in the sewage.
o The advantage of this method over the trickling filers is because the sludge
can be used later.
7. The cleaned liquid is run through a second settlement tank before it is released as
8. Both the trickling filter method and the activated sludge method, run into problems if
the sewage contains substances which harm the microorganisms. Mercury,
disinfectants and detergents (cause foaming, which prevent o2 from getting into the
9. To solve these problems sewage is often diluted before being allowed to enter the
trickling filter or aeration tank.

14.7 Sludge can be digested

1. The sludge is fed into the anaerobic digester from the settlement and aeration tanks.
2. This contains anaerobic bacteria in a closed tank. The bacteria breakdown the sludge
and produces methane, which can be used as a fuel.
3. The solids at the end of the reaction be used as a fertilizer.

Making food with microorganisms

14.8 Yeast is used for making alcohol

1. Yeast is a single celled fungus. It feeds saprophytically, which means that it secretes
enzymes, which break down large molecules of food to smaller ones. These diffuse
into the cells.
2. Wild yeast grows in many places, especially on food which contain sugar, such as
3. When we grow yeast we need to provide it with all the things that it needs. Its usually
grown in a solution containing carbohydrates (sugar) and minerals especially
ammonium ions.
4. The yeast absorbs the sugar and minerals, and uses them for growth.
5. When the cell gets to a certain size, it divides by budding. Yeast reproduces fastest
when it is quite warm, around 40 degrees.
6. People have been using yeast for thousands of years to make alcohol. If yeast is added
to a sugar solution, it absorbs some the sugar into its cells for respiration.
7. Usually yeast respires anareobically. When it does this, it converts the sugar to
ethanol and carbon dioxide (and energy). This is called alcoholic fermentation.
8. Fermentation is a name given to the kinds of respiration that produces other products
than carbon dioxide and water.
9. The kind of alcoholic drink that is made depends on the sugar used. Beer is made
from maltose from barley, and wine is made from grape sugar.
10. Another important use of alcohol is a fuel. In Brazil, sugar can was grown especially
for making alcohol,
11. The alcohol produced was purified by distillation. This provides a renewable source
of fuel, which is less polluting as it doesn’t produce SO2 and NO2.

14.9 Yeast is used for making bread

1. When yeast respires it produces CO2. If this CO2 is trapped inside dough, it rises.
This is how bread is made.
2. The dough is made with wheat, and contains amylase, protein and starch.
3. The starch is the energy source for the yeast. The amylase digests the starch to sugar,
so that the yeast can absorb it and use it for reparation. The amylase doesn’t begin to
act until the dough is mixed with water.
4. Protein is important for the texture of the bread. The most important protein in bread
flour is gluten.
5. It forms sticky, stretchy threads as the yeast works on the dough. This helps to trap
the CO2 and help the bread rise.
6. To make bread yeast, sugar flour and water are mixed together to make dough, which
is left in a warm place to rise.
7. The dough is mixed again and made into shapes of loaves. It left to rise and then
8. The high temperatures kill the yeast, break down the alcohol that is made, and alter
the starch and gluten to make firm textured bread.

14.10Bacteria are used to make yoghurt and cheese

1. Lactobacillus is a bacterium which uses lactose (milk sugar) to respire anareobically

to produce lactic acid and energy.
2. The lactic acid makes the milk taste sour. However, people like this taste.
3. The presence of lactic acid lowers the pH of the milk affecting the proteins in the
milk. The coagulate forming clumps. The milk separates out into these clumps called
curd, and the liquid called whey.
4. Yoghurt is made by a species called lactobacillus bulgarius. A culture of the bacterium
is simply added to warm milk.
5. Usually the milk is heated to 70 and then this microorganism is added. This to kill any
other microorganisms which can also ferment the milk, making different, unpleasant
tasking substances.
6. Other species of Lactobacillus are used to make cheese.
7. Sometimes an enzyme called rennin is added with the lactobacillus to the milk. This
enzyme makes the protein coagulate even more than it would with just the
8. The curds and whey are then separated. The whey is used for making sweets or for
animal feed.
9. The curds are pressed and made into cheese.
10. Different types of cheeses are made by using different types of milk, different
mixtures of bacteria, letting the bacteria work at different temperatures, adding small
amount of salt, pressing the curd or leaving them soft and leaving the cheese to ripen
for different lengths of time in different conditions.
11. In some cheese fungi are added as well. The blue streaks in blue cheeses such as the
blue stilton or Roquefort are fungal hyphae.
12. Sometimes the fungal spores just fall in from the sourroundings. This is especially
likely if blue cheeses have been made in the same place before.
13. Usually the fungi are added intentionally.
14. The blue streaks are sometimes in straight lines because thin wires was coated with
fungal spores and then pulled through the curds while they were setting,
15. The fungi need oxygen so holes are made on the cheese. Sometimes the holes are
made by the fungi respiring (co2 bubbles)

14.11Microorganisms can be used as food

1. In the production of cheese, alcohol, bread and yoghurt, microorganism changed one
substance into another, which we use as food.
2. We can also eat microorganism themselves as food.
3. The first attempt to do so was in Germany during WWI, when yeast was grown in
large vats with molasses as a food source to produce a protein supplement for the
4. Nowadays, however protoctists (usually single celled photosynthetic ones) and
bacteria have been grown for food production, the food made from all
microorganisms is called SCP, single cell protein.
5. People are not very keen to eat SCP because they are made of microorganisms. Also
the first SCPs were very foul tasting as the contained a lot of DNA&RNA.
6. Most SCPs are used as animal feed.
7. However, one of them is sold for human consumption. It is made from the fungi
fusarium, which is grown in big vats in a carbohydrate and mineral solutions. It is
called Mycoprotein.
8. Then it is dried and shaped into cakes or chunks.
9. Although the mycelium of the fungi is made of long thread like hyphae, it called SCP.
10. It is excellent food because it very rich in protein, no fat and cholesterol and a lot of
fiber. It also tastes bland, which means it can easily be flavored.
11. Mycoprotein can be sold in parts of the world where there is a food shortage. It
doesn’t need soil, and it can be grown from many different food sources including
waste, so its cheap.