The ecophysiological characterization and analysis of microorganisms relevant to building components deals with their physiological needs and capabilities, as well as their ecological spectrum. It basically concerns the interaction of organisms with the animate and inanimate environment. The better the ecophysiological characteristics are understood about a harmful organism or group of organisms whose growth one would like to prevent or restrict (e.g. mold inside buildings or algae on façades), the more specifically preventive or counter measures can be developed.
Sound knowledge of the fundamental ecophysiological properties of the organisms involved enables essential information to be gained about the course and impact of microbiological damage processes. This particularly applies in cases where damage patterns are unclear or forensic issues are concerned.
Alternatively, the opposite approach can also be taken, i.e. by understanding how microorganisms work, they can be used to advantage in a wide range of biotechnological applications.
Fraunhofer IBP’s ecophysiological expertise is thanks to its wealth of knowledge gained through research work, its longstanding experience, its excellent equipment and its database of living microorganisms relevant to building components.
The database of component-relevant microorganisms at Fraunhofer IBP forms an essential base of the institute's knowledge in the field of building microbiomes and material microbiology. A broad spectrum of microorganism strains relevant to building components is cultivated in more than 500 different cultures, with a focus on building algae and molds. The database is used for documentation purposes and is also a valuable aid when it comes to analyzing damage and damage patterns. It enables different stages to be observed, as well as growth on different nutrient substrates. It is particularly useful when conducting targeted material tests, since most of the strains in the database originate from real damage processes and not from environmental scenarios which have nothing to do with the case at hand. The collection is continuously supplemented by knowledge gained from experiments and current literature studies on the cultivated strains. These data form an important part of the institute's expertise in ecophysiology. Since many of the isolated strains have exceptional ecophysiological properties, they also represent a valuable potential for biotechnological applications or form a unique genetic reservoir.
In addition to microscopy, molecular biological methods are also used for taxonomy (e.g. polymerase chain reaction (PCR), genetic barcoding).