‘Oil-munching bacteria’ may clean hard-to-reach oil pockets of Gulf spill

August 4th, 2010 - 1:31 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, August 4 (ANI): Tel Aviv University researchers have used naturally occurring ‘oil-munching bacteria’ grown in labs to clean the hard-to-reach oil pockets that occur when oil mixes with sand and organic matter on beaches.

This find may be implemented in cleaning up the waste created by the Gulf oil spill.

Prof. Eugene Rosenberg and Prof. Eliora Ron of TAU developed methods of growing the bacteria, and increasing their capacity to ingest the oil.

The solution that could clean up the residual oil that can’t be removed by mechanical means.

It is this small percentage of oil that sits under rocks and forms a thin film on the water’s surface.

“We see sad pictures of birds covered in oil and people with good intentions cleaning bird wings,” said Ron.

“But by the time the oil is on their wings, it’s too late. Birds die because oil gets into their lungs.”

At this level of oil removal, the researcher says, the only solution is bioremediation - using nature itself to do the final cleanup.

Ron and Rosenberg’s solution has already been applied to clean out the bilges of oil tankers at sea and is used around the world.

The research appears in The Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology. (ANI)

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