Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Solution to Pollution: New Bacteria Eats Toxic Waste

17.02.2005


Utah State University researchers recently discovered a new bacteria that is a natural cleanser for contaminated soil. The bacteria, now being used around the world, is an inexpensive and highly effective solution to pollution.

“This project shows mother nature’s capability to be a master engineer,” said Ron Sims, biological and irrigation engineering department head. “Past disposal practices and accidental spills have put these carcinogens in our environment, and nature has figured out a way to cleanse herself. We want to be able to understand it better through genomic analysis.”

Engineers often use other human-made chemicals to clean up contaminated sites, but these microbes will provide a natural solution, said Sims. Bioremediation cleans up the environment by allowing living organisms to degrade or transform hazardous organic contaminants using natural biology. It offers an attractive solution to pollution cleanup because it can occur on-site and at relatively little cost compared to other alternatives, he continued. The team received a $1.5 million dollar contract from the U.S. Department of Energy to further study the bacteria. Sims discovered the microbes on a landsite in Libby, Mont. contaminated by chemical carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s). The site had been used by industry as a place to apply preservatives to wood, yet Sims found the land to be relatively free of toxins and asked the question, why? After conducting soil analysis tests, Sims found microbes in the soil that had destroyed the toxic chemicals.



Sims then collaborated with researchers from the Utah State biology department to identify the microbes. The three Libby-site microbes responsible for the remediation were mycobacterium isolates. The other two mycobacterium isolates capable of degrading PAH’s were found at other locations in the United States by Carl Cerniglia at the Arkansas Toxicology Center. Because few of these mycobacterium isolates have been characterized genetically, Utah State’s Center for Integrated Biosystems funded the biologists to examine the genetic material for the five isolates. They answered questions about the size of their chromosome and whether plasmids were present in the mycobacterium. “Putting together genomes tells us a lot about the history of the world and may even help us with its future,” said Joanne Hughes, a Utah State Biology professor.

The Department of Energy will sequence the genetic material of the microbes, and the researchers will then participate in the annotation process by which genes in the sequences will be identified. The researchers will be able to understand the genetic material that allows these bacteria to degrade the PAHs and survive in the soil. Such knowledge may help researchers better understand and utilize the organisms to destroy PAH contaminants in the environment by applying engineering principles to microbial biotechnology, said Sims. “This research is extending itself to the world, and we are really excited about it,” said Anne Anderson, a biology professor and team member.

The group wants to fully understand how these microbes function and survive in the environment so contaminated sites around the world can reap the benefits. Collaborations are currently under way in Nizhnekamsk in the Russian Federation to assist with the treatment of industrial residues, in Poland to renew soils for agricultural production and in the Netherlands to clean up sediments dredged from canals and waterways. “I want to congratulate the Utah State team on the funding for this project,” said Joop Harmsen, senior scientist at Alterra Research Center and Wageningen University in the Netherlands. “PAHs have contaminated large amounts of sediment in the Netherlands, and doing this naturally through bioremediation is the most cost-effective way to treat the contaminated sediments.”

The research involves many levels of cooperation between the sciences and engineering fields but also extends to social scientists and economists. Utah State undergraduates and graduate students from the Colleges of Engineering and Science are also participating in the project. The researchers said student and faculty interest in this project is high because of its human-interest orientation.

In Orson Wells’ classic tale “War of the Worlds,” invisible bacteria saved the world as well as the people in it. Through this project, life is imitating art and through these unique bacteria the world may stay a little cleaner, said Sims.

| newswise
Further information:
http://www.usu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>