Before the 16th century, the existence of micro-organism had not been discovered. It was until a microscope was invented that micro-organism become a subject of discussion (Barnett 2003). Microbiology is the study of microorganisms or microbes. Microorganisms are the smallest living organisms that cannot be observed with our naked hence they need to be magnified using magnification tools such as microscope. Examples of micro-organisms are bacteria, virus and fungi. Fermentation in simple terms is the conversion of sugar into acid, gases and alcohol by enzymes that act as catalysts (Pumphrey and Julie 1996). Fermentation is a process that occur takes place in microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria that produce the enzymes that are responsible for the whole process.
Microbiology dates back to 1665 when Robert Hook discovered a compound microscope. This discovery enabled Antony van Leeuwenhoek to make an observation of microorganisms and describe them in details. Microorganisms play a significant role in fermentation (Barnett 2003).
Microbiology in fermentation came into existence after Antoine Lavoisier studied alcohol fermentation. In his studies, he was able to describe the products of alcohol fermentation. He used sugar, yeast and water which he later varied their proportions to enable to understand well the reactants and outputs of fermentation (Barnett 2003). He was able to conclude that the products of sugar fermentation are alcohol, carbonic acid and carbon dioxide. That yeast was necessary for fermentation to take place. Until this time, the role of yeast in fermentation was not precise. The scientists had not precisely discovered the chemical processes involved in fermentation and the subsequent outcomes of the reactions.
In the early 1800, scientists that included chemists and biologists become in the role of yeast in fermentation and several studies were carried out (Ross and Morgan 2002). The improved microscope at this time enabled three scientists to draw conclusions that brought some light to the understanding of yeast. Charles Cagniard-Latour, Friedrich Ku¨tzing, and Theodor Schwann in separate experiments concluded that the fermentation process was brought about by yeast that existed as a living micro-organism.
Despite so many criticisms of the discoveries of the three scientists, other scientist accepted their conclusion and went ahead and study yeast. An experiment carried out by Payen in 1833 led to the development of enzymes. The enzymes are produced by the living micro-organisms which are referred to as yeasts (Barnett 2003). During the same period, the enzymes were found to act as a catalyst in the sense that the fermentation process did not affect them in any way.
The history of microbiology in fermentation cannot be discussed without the mention of Louis Pasteur who was able to describe to associate the action of microorganisms with fermentation. In the late 1850s, Louis Pasteur performed a number experiment that brought the criticisms on the role of yeast to an end. One of his experiments was lactic acid fermentation where he able to conclude that fermentation is brought about by enzymes produced by living micro-organisms. He was also able to explain the process of souring of milk using the fermentation process where bacteria are the living microorganisms that bring about the milk souring process (Ross and Morgan 2003). Pasteur’s investigation explained why food spoils after some time, which led to pasteurization process that is being utilized to the present days.
Louis Pasteur's further studies on the fermentation in the early 20th century resulted in better understanding of bacteria and hence the disease-causing bacteria. This investigation opened room for the discovery of antibacterial and medicine for the bacteria-based disease such penicillin.
Currently, microbiology in fermentation has been described in a comprehensive manner. This precise description is because of the development of technology that has been extensively utilized in various research processes. A clear understanding of fermentation has been brought out clearly including the previously unclear nature of the enzymes. The present knowledge of enzymes is that they are produced by the microorganism to help in the catalysis of the fermentation process. Fermentation has been studied in detail that specific enzymes responsible for a particular fermentation have been discovered.
Presently, fermentation is known to be a process that takes place without oxygen. The process of fermentation has been described to be a process that leads to the production of alcohol, carbon dioxide acid and energy. In the ancient time, energy was not included products as part of the fermentation process (Volker 2001).
There are three common forms of fermentation that have been described. These include aerobic fermentation, lactic acid fermentation and ethanol fermentation. Aerobic fermentation is an exceptional type of fermentation that requires oxygen in order to take place. It occurs during the respiration process in order to generate energy in the form of ATP (Volker 2001). Lactic fermentation is a kind of fermentation that takes place in the muscles of animals when there are no enough oxygen uptakes. It is also responsible for the production of sour milk and yoghurt in the industries. Ethanol fermentation is the kind of fermentation that is utilized in the beer brewing industries.
The future of microbiology in fermentation lies on the technological development (Steven 2008). Through technology, it would be possible to culture specimens and come up with better research. Because genome sequence of a number of living things including micro-organisms have been made further understanding of fermentation can be done. Further understanding of fermentation will bring about more activity that utilizes the process. For example, the perishable food that is still a problem up to now can be solved (Ross and Morgan 2002). Genome sequence of the microorganisms responsible for the fermentation process can help in the culturing of this micro-organism in the lab to be used in industrial production.
Lastly, fermentation process is likely to be used extensively in future in the generation of biofuels. Genetic mechanisms have been employed by microbiologists in experiments that are aimed at developing faster means of obtaining biofuels. The two major ways that are being tested by the Microbiologists include trials to improve yields from microbes that produce cellulase, the enzyme used in biofuels production and transfer of genes from cellulase into strains of bacteria commonly found in the industry. Scientists have been able to find new strains that are useful through their adaptation to heat referred to as thermophilic. The success of the experiments by scientists could mean that biofuels could be transformed directly and efficiently from wood. It is estimated that with the efficiency of the enzymes, five kilograms of wood can produce up to 2.5 liters of bioethanol. Yeasts and other microorganisms are usually introduced into the system once the celluloses are broken down
Barnett, J., A. (2003) Beginnings of microbiology and biochemistry: the contribution of yeast
Research. Microbiology 149:557-567
Pumphrey, B., Julie, C. (1996) an introduction to fermentation. Biochemistry, 2:1-24
Ross, R., P. and Morgan, S., C. (2002) Hill Preservation and fermentation: past, present and
Future. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 79:3-16
Steven, T. (2008). Food microbiology. Biotechnology 5:1-91
Volker M. (2001) Bacterial Fermentation. Encyclopedia of life sciences, 1-7