Kjetill Østgaard

Professor Department of Biotechnology

+47 73594068
Sem Sælands vei 4, Kjemi V*144

Background and activities

Areas of speciality / Fields of responsibility


  • environmental biotechnology; research and tutoring

  • teaching; environmental biotechnology, microbial ecology, error analysis & research planning

  • exobiology; now as a hobby

  • lunch seminar organizer 

Research areas, general apects:

The model system concept may be identified as the common denominator of my research, primarily the development and application of reproducible experimental systems for biological studies ranging from the molecular level to that of microbial communities.

Cell culture systems has obviously been a key factor, as illustrated for mammalian cells, microalgae, land plant and macroalgal protoplast and tissue culture, as well as a variety of bacterial monocultures and ecosystems.

Gel technology may be emphasised in this connection, that is the development and application of gel entrapment and gel support media for cell and tissue culture systems. Gel entrapment includes soft agarose for transformed human cells, alginate entrapment of plant protoplasts and callus as well as seaweed cell and tissue cultures and open bacterial systems, and in particular chemically modified polyvinyl alcohol (PVA-SbQ) gels applicable even in biopolymer-degrading open systems such as wastewater. Previous development of homogenous alginate gel media is part of the basis for current studies of microbial adhesion and growth on non-solid gel surfaces.

Biopolymer research may be added as a key word in this connection, particularly related to alginate ion binding, controlled gel formation, cytokine induction, stability and characterization by as well as degradation pattern of alginate lyases. Alginate lyase studies also include other applications related to seaweed biotechnology as well as large scale production. Carrageenase production has been developed similarly.  Chitosan studies are connected to cell adhesion and flocculation. Finally, metabolic studies of bacterial organic (PHB & PHV) and inorganic (polyphosphate) polymers may also be added.

Measuring physics has generally been a helpful tool in this work, particularly when developing optical detection methods based on turbidity or fluorescence, including microcomputer-assisted control. NIR as well as NMR may also be mentioned.

Finally, the model system concept also includes mathematical modelling when suitable. It has occasionally been applied such as in the cases of storm wave statistics and wave refraction, cooperative ion binding to alginates, often in cooperation with others such as in the cases of P cycling due to zooplankton grazing, non-Michaelis-Menten enzyme kinetics and immobilized microbial community dynamics analysed by cellular automata.

Recent research in environmental biotechnology

may be divided in the following major activities (previous oil related research not included):

a) Biodegradation of organic material; marine biomass, cow manure and biogas production. Key words: Seaweeds, alginate, hydrolysis, composting, biogas production, ethanol production. Activity based on earlier NFR projects, on Biodegradation of Norwegian brown seaweeds (Pronova/NFR) supporting one Ph.D. 1997, Energy from macroalgae (Hydro/NFR) supporting one Ph.D. 2000, cooperation with Sintef Biotechnology 2009. On cow manure; total utilization and byproduct stabilization, from 2009 on also participation in NFR (BIP) project Biogas Trøndelag on biogas production.

b) Biological wastewater treatment; removal of N and P. Key words: Gel entrapment, nitrification, EBPR, P sludge analysis, N removal from process water in marine aquaculture and CO2 capture plants. Earlier projects include Swedish NUTEKs STAMP program, New immobilization techniques for biological wastewater treatment (NFR) supported one Ph.D. 1999. Current activities are related to nitrifying biofilms applied in recycled marine aquaculture, and to total N removal from process water after post-combustion CO2 capture by amine absorption in cooperation with Sintef Process Technology. 

c) Biofilm formation and biofouling. Key words: Chitosan, non-solid surfaces, hydrogels, marine biofouling. Activity based on earlier NTNF projects. Recent projects Biopolymers in biofilm and flock formation (NFR/Jotun) with one Ph.D. finished 2001, Marine Biofouling (Jotun/NFR) with one in 2002. 

Teaching (in cooperation with others):

  • TBT 4130 Environmental Biotechnology

  • TBT 4505 - T1 Error Analysis and Research Planning

  • BT 8101 Microbial ecology

Other interests:

  • Exobiology; teaching may be reactivated upon request

  • Mountain hiking, particularly under the Law West of Litlos [in Norwegian only]

  • Building scratch/plastic historical scale models

  • Writing erotic poetry