iGEM Team Aachen 2017

Salt Vault

Rethinking Wastewater Treatment

The Project

Our project revolved around a resource that has become a global issue: water. While two thirds of our planet are covered with water, freshwater is getting shorter and shorter. One reason for the decrease of freshwater is the salinization of groundwater and rivers caused by industrial wastewater pollution. We want to fight this problem with the help of synthetic biotechnology by creating Salt Vaults - yeast working as supercollectors to sequestrate salt ions in their vacuole.

To reach this goal, we took nature as a role model: Plants grow on oversalted grounds by accumulating salts in their vacuole. We modified the ion transport pathways of yeast by integrating import mechanisms from these plants, knocking out efflux mechanisms and overexpressing existing yeast import mechanisms.

Find out more


  • Creation of VAULTer, a yeast sequestrating 39% of the Sodium of a “seawater” medium
  • Development of microbial supercollectors, successfully demonstrated with sodium and potassium
  • Creation of yeast with increased halotolerance in comparison to wildtype
  • Proof of ultrafiltration to prevent Salt Vaults from spreading into the environment
  • Initiation of societal debate on genetic engineering in Germany
  • Modelling of the novel ion pathways in mutated yeast
  • Fundamental applied design, including nutrition, separation and after-use of yeast
  • Assembly and submission of tested and functional BioBricks
  • Development of an affordable peristaltic dosing system to enable continuous measurements

Human Practices

Is what we are working on worth it? How can we improve our project to have a more extensive impact on water treatment? We incorporated feedback from scientists, companies and the public to shape our project, while informing about the urgency of water scarcity and the possibilities of genetic engineering. We have conducted conversations with experts from many different backgrounds, visited schools and held presentations.

With the input we got, we talked to politicians, trying to make an impact on society and political environmental action itself.

Click here to see the details


Lab work is the heart of every single iGEM project. Read about our workflow, the methods we used and how we spent most of our time.

To the Lab

Special Awards

With the Salt Vault, we apply for the special prizes of
Applied Design
Integrated Human Practices
and Plant Project.

Sponsors & Attributions

Lots of people helped us in making our project happen. We are deeply thankful for their help, whether it was advice, financial support or materials we got.

Get to know our team & benefactors

Further Attributions