A Novel Microbial Biofiltration Technology for Improving Indoor Air Quality
Rebecca Baron
Prince of Wales Secondary
Floor Location : S 045 V

Indoor air pollution is a global concern, from smoke emitted by biofuels in developing countries to volatile organic compounds present in mass-produced manufactured goods. In 2016, the World Health Organization attributed 1.6 million premature deaths to high concentrations of indoor air pollutants. The purpose of this project is to develop a genetically engineered microbial biofilteration technology with the ability to improve indoor air quality by removing sublethal concentrations of formaldehyde, a carcinogenic volatile organic compound (VOC). Although biofilters are a promising technology for improved indoor air quality and public health, a fully satisfactory method for VOC removal has yet to be developed. For this purpose, formaldehyde and formate dehydrogenase genes found within Pseudomonas putida KT2440 bacteria were amplified using polymerase-chain reaction (PCR) to enhance the bioremediation capabilities of Escherichia coli K-12: PP_3970 (groES), PP_0257 (fdhD) and PP_0328 (fdhA). The genetically modified strain was incorporated into a high-performance microbial biofilter to enhance the metabolization of formaldehyde into less harmful organic byproducts. A 96-well microplate reader was used to determine the bacterial growth following twelve hours of exposure to VOCs when induced and uninduced with isopropyl-β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG). From this experiment, it was found that amplified fdhA and fdhD had a greater tolerance to formaldehyde compared to the parental strain. FdhA and fdhD were capable of tolerating 40ppm of formaldehyde in comparison to the control, which was only capable of tolerating 20ppm CH2O. In addition, the efficiency of the biofilter was tested using fluorometric analysis to measure the level of formaldehyde degraded over a twenty-four hour period. This is the first time an experiment has studied the bioremediation capabilities of fdhA, fdhD, and groES. Overall, these results can help decrease health effects associated with VOCs and advance bioremediation research and technology pertaining to indoor air quality.