The Characteristics Of Environmental Biotechnology
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in 19th-century environmental pollution has grown into a global problem and has affected air, water, soil, and ecosystems. This has shown a direct impact on human health and well-being. Disorders and diseases like cardiovascular diseases, respiratory tract diseases, asthma, lung cancer, ventricular hypertrophy, autism, retinopathy, fetal growth, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, psychological complications, and low birth weight (Ghorani-Azam et.al 2016). Ecologically, environmental pollution can cause major serious threats to the diversity of life. As our planet is facing serious challenges we need to find sustainable solutions. Biotechnology which evolved several thousand years ago and involves the usage of living organisms has emerged out to be an extremely promising low- cost solution to deal with such environmental hazards.
Environmental biotechnology has emerged out as a separate branch of biotechnology which involves the protection and restoration of the quality of the environment by using biotechnology for detection, prevention, and remediation in several ways. It encapsulates bioremediation, biodegradation, waste management, wastewater treatment, bio-filtration, and biofuel production. These disciplines focus on complex microbial interactions and hence the researchers are taking a keen interest in this edge-cutting eco- genomic technique. Moreover, the understanding of population, microbial diversity, and structure for sustainable environmental management needs to come out of the “black box”. Thus, it is inevitably important to identify the areas of growth. The leading environmental problems like global warming, air pollution, acid rains, waste disposal, climate change, water pollution, ozone layer depletion and urban sprawl etc., need the utmost attention. Industrial waste is the major cause behind most of the issues; it not only causes metal pollution but also results in water bodies’ adulteration and hence, affects the air quality and further results in global warming. CPCB has issued notice against four thermal power plants in Haryana, three in Punjab, two each in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana and one in Tamil Nadu. They noted that these power plants have ‘failed to comply’ with the directions issued under Environment (Protection) Act for compliance of emission limit of sulphur dioxide (Yedla 2015).
Biotechnological tools are a bio-scientific tool that uses the chemistry of living organisms by manipulation of cell and cell structures and in turn developing a new clearer and more effective alternative method that not only maintains the aesthetic beauty of the environment but also deals with the problem cost-effectively. Their eco-friendly nature provides them the advantage over all the processes existing in the system, resolving all the issues dealt with conventional processes.
Chen et al. enumerated vividly that environmental biotechnology refers to the utilization of microorganisms to improve environmental quality. With an increase in the human population the degradation of ecosystems has disturbed balance of natural cycles which have harmed both humans and other living systems. As our world is being endangered the government and people need to face these challenges of population increase and its attendant problems of pollution increase and biotechnology remains the most reliable means of environmental sustenance. Munguia-Fragozo and his colleagues came across current “omics” scenarios such as denaturation of gradient gel, electrophoresis, and microscopy using fluorescence in situ hybridization. They also cloned rRNA gene fragments using bioinformatic tools for the characterization of the microbial community of aquaponic systems. They even mentioned the metatranscriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics and provided information about their functional analyses at certain levels of gene expression, protein translation. C. Varrone et al. studies about (MMCs) mixed microbial culture and reported about their selection and adaptation. He also talked about MMCs fermentative abilities that ferment the crude glycerol which was earlier generated from animal fat-based biodiesel and produce building-blocks and green chemicals.
Another branch of biotechnology i.e. nanotechnology is also growing rapidly. It has successfully touched every STEM area. Nano-engineering is pushing conventional research boundaries and technological practices in this new evolving world at a pace higher than any other branch. Environmental protection can be significantly done using nanotechnology as it provides controlled understanding of emissions of various pollutants and has successfully developed a new field, “green” technologies which have the potential of minimizing the production of waste, by-products, and remediation of waste sites and polluted water but there are certain issues that need to be addressed before applying this technology the foremost issue is efficient development and production of crop products. The second is to develop neat and clean sustainable technology. The third is the cost-effectiveness of technology i.e. commercial viability. The fourth issue is about nano-products fate and their risk assessment. The last issue is about socioeconomic aspects. Today, two applications have played a very significant role in agriculture.
Nano-encapsulation helps in reducing leaching and the evaporation of harmful substances and hence plays a vital role in environmental protection. These nano-encapsulated products help in the reduction of the dosage of pesticides and become environmentally friendly for crop protection as well as can be obtained in different forms. The worldwide consumption of pesticides is about two million tonnes per year, of which 45% is used in Europe alone, 25% is consumed in the United States and 30% in the rest of the world. Haphazard pesticides are used carelessly and hence increase pathogen and pest resistance. Excesses pesticide usage is causing a reduction in soil biodiversity, killing useful soil microbes, causing bio- magnification and pollinator decline, and is rapidly destroying the natural habitat of beneficial organisms such as birds. Therefore, the usage of nano-based pesticides and insecticides can help in increasing agricultural productivity and can help in developing a slow and sustainable release of nutrients into the soil, signifying its long life.
Kaushal and Wani, 2017 et al. proposed that nano-sensors can be used as analytical devices (having 1D sensing). Nanosensors are usually 1-100 nm in size and can be easily fabricated and are used for monitoring physicochemical properties in places otherwise difficult to reach. These sensors (in the form of nanotubes, nanowires, nanoparticles, or nanocrystals) are generally exposed to transducing signals that were derived by sensing biological or chemical analytes having a similar size. It helps farmers in maintaining their crops in a controlled way by reporting the timely needs of plants. Thus, nanotechnology should be addressed to aid decision making in crop monitoring, offer an accurate analysis of nutrients and pesticides in soil, or for maximizing the efficiency of water use for smart agriculture. Nanosensors hold various advantages like fast, sensitive, and cost-effective detection of different targets to ensure food quality, safety, freshness, authenticity, and traceability along the entire food supply chain. Nowadays, wireless nanosensors across the cultivated field have made many essential data collection easier for example agronomic intelligence processes, planting time harvesting crops. In near future water delivery systems are likely to be developed.
The usage of biotechnological tools for the treatment of off-gas or foul air has grown drastically because of their ability to destroy the pollutant present and not just convert them from gaseous to liquid phase as it was done in the conventional chemical method. Veiga et al. 1997 studied the various parameters affecting the biotechnological process, suggesting that this would improve the performance of biological air treatment significantly. Today 3 major types of bioreactors are used for waste gas treatment- biofilters, trickling biofilters, and bio scrubbers. Recent studies have also shown that there are other alternative technologies like external loop airlift bioreactor, a spiral bioreactor, membrane bioreactors, that can be used for the air treatment process. Off- gas treatment is been done from the past several years, primarily by non-biological methods such as condensation, activated carbon adsorption, absorption scrubbing, and incineration.
Compounds which are water-soluble like H2S can be readily absorbed into the liquid. This mass transfer is a function of the surface area of bubbles, the contact time, and the diffusivity coefficient. Adsorption In this low solubility high molecular weight compounds may be physically adsorbed onto the biological floc. Condensation Transfer of relatively warm off-gas into a liquid of lower temperature will result in condensation of volatile organic compounds.
In this biological oxidation occurs for the significant conversion of pollutants (that were initially absorbed by the liquid, absorbed onto the floc, or condensed) due to the high concentration of active, aerobic microorganisms. Devinnyet et al. 1999 enlightened the fact that biodegradation of some low molecular weight aliphatic hydrocarbons such as methane, pentane and some chlorinated compounds is difficult and came across some bioreactors (such as rotating drum biofilters, horizontal-flow biofilters, foamed-emulsion bioreactors, short contact time bio trickling filters, higher plant-based biofilters, and microwave concentrator-biofilters integrated systems) for off-gas treatment and odor control. Another challenge that we are facing globally is the industrial wastewater treatment, both collection and treatment systems result in off-gas emissions. Our federal, state, and regional air quality agencies regulate two general types of air emissions: criteria pollutants and hazardous or toxic pollutants but there is a third type of air quality indicator i.e. odor or off-gas which is not included in air quality regulations. The off-gas is released from wastewater because of air stripping, wastewater turbulence, and some by-products of biologically mediated processes and most of the off-gas generated is in the form of sulfur-based compounds, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is predominant amongst them.
Half of the population is drinking unsafe water that has been contaminated by environmental pollution of the land. Land pollution not only causes cancer of most types, including leukemia but also results in the death of a kid every 8 seconds. Land pollution includes plastics, metal and glass containers, food wrapping, worn-out machinery, old furniture, garbage, etc. 25% of the total volume of landfills is accounted for by plastic bottles along with other forms of plastic. Statistics show that America produces nearly 25 billion plastic bottles each year. Therefore, nowadays scientists are working on potential alternatives to replace the traditional plastics derived from the petrochemical source. Biopolymers which are biodegradable and biocompatible polymers in nature are gaining worldwide importance in research fields such as pharmacological, biomedical, and environmental applications. They hold characteristic features like highly functionalized globular nature; interstellar polymers exhibit different properties from those of their linear counterparts, such as less entanglement in the solid-state, high solubility in numerous solvents; low melt viscosity and fast molecular motion. They are of two types one is plastic materials which will be decomposed in natural aerobic (composting) process and another is decomposed in anaerobic (landfill) environments. These biopolymers get degraded when soil microbial consortia start consuming them and eventually releasing them in the form of monomers to the environment. These monomers are less hazardous in nature. They are bio-plastics (PHA or PHB) or plastics. Bio-plastics are usually derived from renewable raw materials or petroleum-based plastics. The modern plastic industry uses additives which play a critical role in overcoming the processing difficulties and helping in enhancing the durability, which in turn helps the product designers to manufacture more pliable, trendy, user friendly and efficient products. Till date most of the bio-plastic which is synthesized contains either organic or inorganic compounds, in which additives are only 20% of the total weight of the polymer.
However, the present studies have provided some possible methodologies which hold potential outcomes to check the quality of the products that are derived using bio-plastics. Bio-plastics manufactured using banana peel is having the properties of pliability, user-friendliness, and biodegradability. At present conventional plastic is being used in every corner of the world, but as they raise many environmental issues they need to be replaced in the future. Hence, nowadays bio-plastic which is environmentally friendly, trendy, user friendly, and have degradation tractable properties need to be marketed as soon as possible.
From nanotechnology to microbiology every sector of biotechnology is involved in improving environmental quality in some way or the other. Land, air, water, metal pollution as well as global warming are taken into account and conventional processes are being evolved eco-friendly and cost-effectively. Researchers are doing great work by utilizing engineering and biological aspects at the same time. There is no doubt that biotechnology is a great field for researchers and for coming up with a sustainable lifestyle.
There is no doubt that biotechnological approaches and interventions can be used to combat global and local environmental challenges which are leading to climate change but there are certain drawbacks and ethical issues in their implementation and marketing respectively. Bio-products are a threat to biodiversity and ethics, the risks of the experiment are more as compared to the benefits; consumer thinks that they can cause mutation and hence is not yet accepted by them. It is said that biotechnology exploits the aboriginal people and their knowledge; its testing causes harm to animals as they need to go through a lot of pain during trials and experimentation. From this it is clear that usage of such products needs more research and acceptability.
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