Brainstorm area

Some ideas posted by other teams can be found at the Idea exchange page. A list of the projects of last year arranged in few categories can be found at this page.


Styrene Production

Styrene is a hydrocarbon used in several field of chemical engineering and, of course, as biofuel. Some previous experiences on E. coli transformation for styrene oxide production have been reported here.

Hydrogen Production

Hydrogen is not properly a biofuel but is a very active molecule in biological systems and perhaps engineering an organism able to produce it could be an easily affordable task. Check this link for further info.

Biodiesel Production

I recently read on the online version of The Times this interesting news. It is more likely to remain only a cue but it seems that by reengineering E. coli it could be possible to obtain compounds similar to diesel and gasoline from agricultural waste. More info at 1, 2 and 3

Information processing

Schmitt trigger

Bologna worked on a Schmitt trigger last year (University of Bologna 2007). Domenico already gave an explanation about this device. The project is also very well documented so have a look at their site. More about the Schmitt trigger can be found here (

Signal amplifier

F.menolascina 19:11, 14 June 2008 (UTC): Wolkenhauer's group in Rostock recently published this paper on BMC Sys Bio. It describes a mechanism used in the JAK-STAT pathway to amplify a signal in a signaling cascade. The principle doesn't seem to be too complex and we could think to take it as model to add another important "brick" to the parts registry: a signal amplifier.

Solving combinatorial problems

F.menolascina 19:11, 14 June 2008 (UTC): This paper describes a quite interesting idea on how to reengineer bacteria to solve classical problems in computer science theory. This work resembles former applications of DNA computing in combinatorial optimization problem solving; however in this case living systems, rather than molecules, are used.

Other interesting stuff

Magnetotactic bacteria

  • Somewhere I read something about this 'magnetic' bacteria ( - maybe this can be used for orientation/movement. This organism is already successfully used to produce electrical energy.
  • Filippo Menolascina 12:30, 26 May 2008 (EDT): Bastiaan's idea seems very interesting...we could apply time-varying magnetic field stimulation to make bacteria move, or "dance"! We could even think at some form of magneto-activated memory if MTB orientation can be selectively modified (something like the mechanism computer hard drives work on). Bastiaan, do you know anything about the issues in cloning the genes involved in biomineralisation stated in the wikipage you pointed out? (Bastiaan: No, not really)
  • Rad Haghi, 10 June 2008 I have something in my mind about this bacteria. As I understood they can be aligned into magnetic field. This procedure is like something that we have in piezoelectric materials. The material is aligned into the electric field so it can have a small change in volume which can be used for a small movement. Maybe it is applicable on this kind of bacteria to use them as an actuator that produce a precise movement. Definitely it has very small movement but this small movement can be used in microsystems and MEMS.


  • Marco de Groot While reading through some of the previous iGEM projects I was intrigued by the idea of Calgary 2007. The used lysis of agar to produce a high resolution picture on agar plates by bacteria. If we could have bacteria produce a stain/pigment/dye or solid compound (like crosslinking/polimerising it's surrounding) in a 3D agar block we could print a 3 dimensional picture or even a solid item. We would need to excite these bacteria then with a number of different stimuli, like 3 lasers to mark the position of production.
  • Annother extension of this concept could be to make bacteria produce a pigment and a crosslinking to cotton fiber for high resolution fabric printing. One would spray/spread the bacteria on a T-shirt, exite them using a laser light or metabolite, they produce a pigment and an enzyme (or enzyme system) to crosslink the pigment to the cotton. Just washing once would remove the bacteria (or inactivate them by initiation of a self destruct/DNA-ase after they are done). This may reduce the environmental load of staining fabrics, as we would not use harsh chemicals to raise pH need high temperatures for the crosslinking.

Sticky bacteria

  • Bastiaan I found this news item on the internet about a sticky bacteria [1]. It is about the Caulobacter crescentus and it is said to be "nature's strongest-known glue to stay in place on wet surfaces". Any interesting applications using stickiness?

F.menolascina 09:17, 13 June 2008 (UTC) A point of this tender published by the Business Office of th FBI asks for proposals of super glues to be used for homeland security.