James Chong

James Chong


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Research interests

Methanogenic archaea are an increasingly economically important group of microorganisms. A series of unique biochemical pathways means that these microbes are able to synthesise methane, the flammable component of natural gas, from basic components such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen. On a global scale, methanogens are responsible for the synthesis of approximately a billion tonnes of methane per year. However, in addition to their potential to contribute to climate change, methanogens are also a key component in the decomposition of organic matter via anaerobic digestion (AD). Under controlled conditions, AD has the potential to produce substantial quantities of renewable energy from waste.

In collaboration with a range of industrial and academic partners, my group is investigating the dynamics of the microbial consortia involved in anaerobic digestion. We have developed a bench-scale anaerobic digester that allows us to accurately model the AD processes that occur on an industrial scale and perform metagenomic analysis of the anaerobic community as it adapts to new nutrient sources.  We have commissioned an AD suite of four similar reactors with the Biorenewables Development Centre in York, that is equipped with analytical facilities to monitor the physico-chemical changes in these systems.

My lab also houses comprehensive facilities for the growth and genetic manipulation of methanogens.  In addition to using these facilities for investigating the mechanisms underlying DNA replication using Methanococcus maripaludis as a model, we are pursuing the isolation, growth and characterisation of methanogens and other anaerobes from the environment.  Most recently, this has included the isolation of novel anaerobes from seawater samples recovered from around Signy Island in Antarctica.

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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