Faculty: The Porter School of Environmental Studies
Tel Aviv University

Dr. Golberg Alexander

Our goal is to generative fundamental knowledge on biological systems organization and function, and to apply this knowledge to develop technologies that address critical challenges in energy generation and health.

Our laboratory conducts research in a wide range of research subjects including:

BioEnergy systems

Bioenergy systems efficiency analysis

We develop models to analyze the efficiency and net energy balance of biorefineries.

Our current projects include:                

  • Analysis of distributed biorefineries for food and energy production from seaweeds
  • Modeling of socio-economic and environmental effects of distributed local biorefineries in developing countries.

Bioelectricity and bioenergy

We are interested in all aspects of bioelectricity and bioenergy starting from electric fishes, carbon fluxes, bio-batteries and energy molecules metabolism.

Multiorganism metabolism and fermentation, synthetic ecology

The majority of current fermentation research focuses on the optimization of single organism metabolic networks with an aim to maximize a single product production. While this approach has led to important advances in the fermentation field, further increase in the system productivity and fermentation of multiple products simultaneously requires multiple changes within metabolic network of a single organism. These multiple changes are a complex task, as changing multiple genes in the organisms could have numerous, currently unpredictable consequences on organism survival and functionality. Therefore, we proposed to simplify this process by performing a multi-step fermentation by various organisms, when each of the organisms is optimized towards specific part of the processes by as few alternations as possible.

Our current projects include:                

  • Develop in silica metabolic model of multiorganism fermentation for biofuels production
  • Experimental fermentation of macroalgae biomass in two-step biofuel fermentation process
  • Design of a synthetic multiorganism consortium for improved carbon utilization yields.

Biological Systems

Epiphytic microbiome

All living surfaces (skin, leaves, macroalgae) are covered by multiple microorganisms. We study the self-organization of epiphytic microbiome and of impact of microenvironment on the symbiotic relations between multicellular organisms and their epiphytic microbiome. We develop new tools for functional characterization of the epiphytic microbiome with the goal to apply synthetic microbiome in biotechnology and medical applications.

Our current projects include:                

  • Identification of epiphytic microbiome of macroalgae and skin
  • Understanding the metabolites fluxes between epiphytic microbiome and multicellular host
  • Engineering synthetic epiphytic microbiome to control biomass yields

Scarless organ regeneration

Hypertrophic scarring (HTS) is a major clinical problem in burn and trauma patients that comes with a $12 billion economic burden, in the US alone. HTS formation is extremely complex and include the interplay of growth factors, proteolytic enzymes, angiogenesis factors, and fibrogenic factors, which stimulate the increased deposition of extracellular matrix by myofibroblasts. Although several studies have identified genomic, epigenetic and environmental factors that correlate with the formation of HTS, the exact molecular mechanisms that induce scar tissue formation instead of normal tissue are not known. This knowledge gap has resulted in empirical therapies with limited clinical success. We have recently demonstrated that skin ablated by non-thermal non-thermal irreversible electroporation (IRE) regenerates without scars. Our long-term goal is to understand the scarless tissue regeneration process and to use this knowledge to develop multi-target therapies to reduce HTS.

Our current projects include:                

  • Determination of the impact of IRE ablation on endothelial extracellular matrix architecture in vivo using advanced in vivo imaging methods.
  • Understanding the metabolism and signaling in the IRE ablation injury
  • Developing novel tools and protocols to reduce HTS.

Technology

Pulsed electric fields (PEF) for energy efficient processes

Traditional biomass processing technologies use heat for drying and thermochemical processes for biomass decomposition. Those processing technologies are extremely energy intensive. Emerging PEF-assisted dewatering enables an energy efficient water extraction from wet biomass, saving up to 50% of the consumed energy. Non-thermal PEF increases biological membrane permeabilization by a process known as electroporation. We propose the PEF pretreatment combined with mechanical press for energy efficient process for biomass drying.

Our current projects include:                

  • Design of pulse generator to electroporate marine biomass in an energy efficient process
  • Combined PEF-solar drying
  • Phytochemical extraction

Microfluidic devices for environmental applications

Using the power of microfluidic devices, we develop platform technologies that allow single cell identification and functional studies. The goal of these studies is to understand the role of individual members of complex biological system communities in the system function.

Our current projects include:                

  • Functional single cell studies
  • Environmental sensors for toxins and bacteria contamination

Low cost devices for low-income countries

We are working on low-cost devices for energy generation, water and food preservation in remote, rural location in low-income communities. The goal of these projects is to develop platform technologies that can be rapidly translated to the real-world settings and benefit multiple communities world-wide.

Our current projects include:                     

  • Low cost battery development based on locally available materials
  • Milk preservation using solar energy and pulsed electric fields