PhD project by Aimilia Nousi

Name: Aimilia Nousi
Project Title: Single molecule microscopy investigation of cellulases
Group: Nanofluidics and Bioimaging
Supervisor: Rodolphe Marie

Project Description:
Cellulases are the main enzymes that catalyze the breakdown of waste biomass into useful biofuels, bioethanol in particular. Cellulases are divided into three classes: cellobiohydrolases, endoglucanases and β-glucosidases. Collectively, they act on cellulose and the end result is the total conversion of cellulose to glucose, which after some treatment is turned into bioethanol. This cooperation between enzymes is described as a degree of synergy with a value larger than 1.
Therefore, the overall aim of this project is to improve enzymatic conversion of cellulose by understanding in depth and optimizing the mutual cooperation between cellulases. However, there is a lack of techniques to observe how individual enzymes interact on the surface of their substrate. Single molecule microscopy takes advantage of the heterogeneous nature of those enzymes, which allows us to color code them, and provides the resolution needed in order to study the interactions between the different cellulases.

A mechanistic understanding of cellulase synergy and cellulose degradation is essential in optimizing the enzymatic cocktails used in industrial settings. Up till now, enzymatic conversion of cellulose to biofuels requires high dosages of enzymes and several days of reaction time which increases production costs and therefore prevents their use. However, climate change is a real threat to humanity and extracting and burning fossil fuels is no longer sustainable and there is a need for alternative, renewable energy sources.
Bioethanol production in industrial settings is the way towards bioeconomy and sustainability where crop residues and food wastes are used as a basis for producing bio-based products, while wasting less.


Aimilia Nousi
PhD student
DTU Health Tech


Rodolphe Marie
Groupleader, Associate Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 45 25 56 76