Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems

Biological Engineered Living Materials

The Biological Engineered Living Materials (BioELM) research team, led by Professor Rahul Mangayil, mainly focuses on studying the fundamental genetic facets of Komagataeibacter spp., a native nanocellulose producing bacteria, to develop "smart" functional living materials. We are also engaged in designing eco-bioprocesses for bacterial nanocellulose production and designing synthetic biology tools for Komagataeibacter spp.
Colour photo of a blurry person in a white lab coat holding an in-focus white paper-like wafer in their blue gloved hand
Postdoc Michelle Alexandrino de Assis holds a material sample. Photo by Jose Luis González Arribas

Our research areas

  • Recombinant protein secretion via native and heterologous modules in Komagataeibacter spp.
  • Development of functional living materials for microplastic depolymerization
  • Bioprocess development and engineering
  • Biological conversion of C1 compounds to platform chemicals

Ongoing research projects

Colour photo of six clear petri dishes containing brown coloured masses of dried bacterial nanocellulose inside a clear rectangular tray
Oven dried bacterial nanocellulose. Photo by Jose Luis González Arribas

Engineering protein secretion routes in Komagataeibacter rhaeticus to design growing functional materials, ELM 4 PET (2022-2027) Principal investigator Rahul Mangayil

The field of Biological Engineered Living Materials focuses on engineering microbes to develop biomaterials with novel "smart" properties. Native material self-assembly, production ease, and biodegradability makes bacterial cellulose as one of the model scaffold systems in the field. However, lack of genetic tools to engineer protein secretion platforms and the knowledge gap on the native secretion routes in nanocellulose producers have directed researchers to adopt co-cultivation and direct enzyme immobilization techniques.

Funded by the Academy of Finland, the ELM 4 PET project aims to understand the native protein secretion systems in Komagataeibacter spp. and develop forthright synthetic biology stratagem to integrate heterologous modules for recombinant protein secretion. The fundamental knowledge generated will be utilized to develop a functionalized "living" material with capacities to depolymerize polyethylene terephthalate. 

Read more about the project

The project collaborates with Imperial College London (UK), Aalborg University (Denmark) and Northwestern University (USA).

Citrus waste recycling for added value products, CIRCLE (2022-2024)

The CIRCLE project, funded by Fondazione Cariplo (Italy), aims at facing a specific issue of the citrus processing industry: the management of high loads of solid waste. Adopting a circular economy approach, this project will focus on improving sustainability of the citrus-processing productive chain by exploring the use of citrus-processing-waste as cheap feedstock for the production of different added-value products. To complete the chain, life cycle assessment of the proposed production chain integrated with a willingness to pay study will evaluate the feasibility of bringing the developed products into the market. 

This project is coordinated by Assoc. Prof. Diego Romano (University of Milan, Italy) and collaborates with Rahul Mangayil's BioELM group (Aalto University), Tampere University (Finland), National Research Council (Italy) and University of Catania (Italy).

New bacterial processes in the global carbon cycle and in the mitigation of methane emissions (2022-2027)

This project aims in revealing the role of gammaproteobacterial methanotrophs in driving novel microaerobic and anaerobic methane oxidation processes that regulate the consumption of greenhouse gas methane in lakes. The team expects to isolate and characterize new species of methanotrophs and also to develop processes to extend their biotechnological potential to generate value-added products from C1 compounds. 

More about the project

The project, funded by the Academy of Finland, is coordinated by Dr. Antti J Rissanen (Tampere University, Finland) and collaborates with the Rahul Mangayil's BioELM group (Aalto University), The Arctic University of Norway (Norway), Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ (Germany), University of Basel (Switzerland), Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg (Germany), Lammi Biological Station (University of Helsinki), University of Jyväskylä, and University of Eastern Finland. 

Past research projects

Upgrading bacterial nanocellulose properties for sensor applications, NanoCelS (2019-2022) Primary Investigator

The NanoCelS project, funded by the Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher grant and conducted at Tampere University, aimed at (a) developing eco-bioprocesses for bacterial nanocellulose production and (b) studying controlled regulation of the genetic elements that confer nanocellulose crystallinity to enhance the biopolymer’s piezoelectric properties. 

In this project, a new approach was introduced to achieve controlled alterations in bacterial nanocellulose structures with minimal integration steps. Using specific genetic engineering tools, regulation of genes partaking in nanofibril assembly are systematically controlled. The upgraded physiological characteristics in bacterial nanocellulose are studied for improvements in mechano-electrical properties. 

More about the NanoCelS project

Related publications

Cannazza, P., Rissanen, A.J., Sarlin, E., Guizelini, D., Minardi, C., Losoi, P., Molinari, F., Romano, D., Mangayil, R. Characterization, genome analysis and genetic tractability studies of a new nanocellulose producing Komagataeibacter intermedius isolate. Scientific Reports, 2022, 12:20520. 

Cannazza, P., Rissanen, A., Guizelini, D., Losoi, P., Sarlin, E., Romano, D., Santala, V., Mangayil, R. Characterization of Komagataeibacter isolate reveals new prospects on waste stream valorization for bacterial cellulose production. Microorganisms. 9 (11), 2230, 2021.

Mangayil, R., Rissanen, A. J., Pammo, A., Guizelini, D., Losoi, P., Sarlin, E., Tuukkanen, S., Santala, V. Characterization of a novel bacterial cellulose producer for the production of eco-friendly piezoelectric-responsive films from a minimal medium containing waste carbon. Cellulose, 2021, 671–689, 28. 

Sriplai, N., Mangayil, R., Pammo, A., Santala, V., Tuukkanen, S., Pinitsoontorn, S. Enhancing piezoelectric properties of bacterial cellulose films by incorporation of MnFe2O4 nanoparticles. Carbohydrate Polymers, 2020, 231, art. no. 115730

Advanced Biological Waste-to-Energy Technologies, ABWET (2015-2018) PhD supervisor

The ABWET research project, funded under the H2020 EXCELLENT SCIENCE - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, focused on developing novel technologies on anaerobic treatment processes, valorization of the digestate and biofuel clean-up. In addition to research, the project improved the relationship between academics and industries and promoted European Joint Doctoral programs ensuring motivation via training through research. Coordinated by The University of Cassino and Southern Lazio (Italy), the project collaborated with Tampere University, Université Paris-Est (France) and IHE Delft Institute for Water Education (Netherlands).

Read more about the ABWET project

Selected publications

Okonkwo, O., Escudie, R., Bernet, N., Mangayil, R., Lakaniemi, A.-M., Trably, E. Bioaugmentation enhances dark fermentative hydrogen production in cultures exposed to short-term temperature fluctuations. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 2020, 104, 439-449. 

Okonkwo, O., Escudie, R., Bernet, N., Mangayil, R., Lakaniemi, A.-M., Trably, E. Impacts of short-term temperature fluctuations on biohydrogen production and resilience of thermophilic microbial communities. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 2019, 44, 8028-8037. 

Okonkwo, O., Lakaniemi, A.-M., Santala, V., Karp, M., Mangayil, R. Quantitative real-time PCR monitoring dynamics of Thermotoga neapolitana in synthetic co-culture for biohydrogen production. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 2018, 43, 3133-3141.

Smart upgrading of biomass by multispecies approach, sBIO (2017-2022) 

The sBIO project, funded by the Academy of Finland, aimed at advancing the metabolic engineering prospects of Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1 and co-culture standardization with oleaginous yeast for sustainable production of high-value lipid compounds from lignocellulosic biomass. Furthermore, the project focused on developing a novel bioprocess for one-pot synthesis of chemicals and energy carrier molecules through synthetic co-culture systems. 

See here for more info on the sBio project

Selected publications

Mangayil, R., Efimova, E., Konttinen, J., Santala, V. Co-production of 1,3 propanediol and long-chain alkyl esters from crude glycerol. New Biotechnology, 2019, 53, 81-89. 

Salmela, M., Lehtinen, T., Efimova, E., Santala, S., Mangayil, R. Metabolic pairing of aerobic and anaerobic production in a one-pot batch cultivation. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 2018, 11, 187. 

Focused proteomic analysis of cell factories, proChassis (2013-2015)

The proChassis project, funded by the Academy of Finland, aimed at developing standardized biocomponents to create novel cell factories for varied applications. In this project, genetic engineering tools, easily genome-engineerable chassis, quantitative monitoring tools of cell factory (molecular binders), and computational approaches for system design and analysis were developed for non-model bacteria. 

Read more about proChassis

Selected publications

Mangayil, R., Rajala, S., Pammo, A., Sarlin, E., Luo, J., Santala, V., Karp, M., Tuukkanen, S. Engineering and Characterization of Bacterial Nanocellulose Films as Low Cost and Flexible Sensor Material. ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, 2017, 9, 19048–19056.

Vuorinen, T., Laurila, M.-M., Mangayil, R., Karp, M., Mäntysalo, M. High Resolution E-Jet Printed Temperature Sensor on Artificial Skin. IFMBE Proceeding, 2017, 65, 839–842.

Hassan, S.S., Mangayil, R., Aho, T., Yli-Harja, O., Karp, M. Identification of feasible pathway information for c-di-GMP binding proteins in cellulose production. IFMBE Proceedings, 2017, 65, 839–842.

Our members

Colour photo of three smiling people standing outside under trees next to a sign that reads Aalto University, Kemistintie 1. There is snow on the ground and it is sunny.
Group photo by Lijo George

Our members

Bibi Hannikainen

Research Assistant (MSc thesis work)

Interested in working with us?

Highly motivated MSc or doctoral students or postdoctoral researchers interested in joining the group can contact Dr. Rahul Mangayil ([email protected]).

Latest publications

Characterization, genome analysis and genetic tractability studies of a new nanocellulose producing Komagataeibacter intermedius isolate

Pietro Cannazza, Antti J. Rissanen, Essi Sarlin, Dieval Guizelini, Carlotta Minardi, Pauli Losoi, Francesco Molinari, Diego Romano, Rahul Mangayil 2022 Scientific Reports

Draft genome sequence data of a psychrophilic tundra soil methanotroph, Methylobacter psychrophilus Z-0021 (DSM 9914)

Antti Juhani Rissanen, Rahul Mangayil, Mette Marianne Svenning, Ramita Khanongnuch 2022 Data in Brief
More information on our research in the Aalto research portal.
Research portal

In the news

Assistant Professor Rahul Mangayil
Appointments Published:

Rahul Mangayil appointed Assistant Professor at the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems

Rahul Mangayil has been appointed five-year fixed term Assistant Professor position in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems as of 1 November 2023. The field of the professorship is Bioprocess Engineering.
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