Re: Vermiculite update
I noticed that, if geobactor bugs were to get the go-ahead, we could be less
dependant on oil in some ways. So the govt probably won't let it happen.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Donna" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Monday, July 26, 2004 5:59 PM
Subject: RE: [CHAT] Vermiculite update
> Speaking of germs- and although this has nothing to do with your
> conversation... though you might want to see one of the news for the day
> articles that showed up today.
> It Takes A Tiny Bug To Tackle A Big Cleanup Job
> By Robert S. Boyd
> Source: Detroit Free Press
> Geobacter, a class of bacteria, is tiny but so talented it can turn
> deadly uranium waste into harmless muck, generate electricity from rust
> and garbage, and run a toy car.
> It's a lot to expect from a bug less than a thousandth of an inch long.
> But the Energy Department, the Pentagon and the National Science
> Foundation are exploring the potential of Geobacter and related
> microorganisms to perform useful work.
> "Geobacter gives us a cheap and simple alternative to a cleaner, safer
> environment and the generation of cleaner forms of energy," said Derek
> Lovley, the biologist who discovered the bacteria in 1987 at the muddy
> bottom of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Lovley heads the
> Geobacter Project, a team of 50 researchers based at the University of
> Massachusetts in Amherst.
> So far, 20 species of the Geobacter genus have been recognized, plus 30
> in closely related families. Scientists have identified the genes of
> several species and figured out their inner workings.
> The first big job for the microbes is to help clean up billions of
> gallons of deadly radioactive uranium waste left over from the Cold War.
> This summer is the third year of an Energy Department test of their
> abilities at a uranium waste field at Rifle, Colo.
> In the test, Geobacter acts like a tiny deliveryman, shuttling electrons
> from atoms in a harmless organic substance, such as vinegar, to a
> species of highly radioactive uranium known as Uranium-6. Compounds
> containing Uranium-6 easily dissolve in water, contaminate rivers and
> underground aquifers, and sicken or kill fish, animals and people.
> The addition of two new electrons reduces an atom of Uranium-6 to a
> safer version called Uranium-4, a solid material similar to natural
> uranium ore. It sinks to the bottom of water, where it can be extracted
> or left safely in place.
> Lovley called this technique "simpler, cheaper and more environmentally
> friendly than the more commonly used 'muck, suck and truck' operations."
> This method, in which contaminants are laboriously dug or pumped up and
> transported elsewhere, would take decades and cost billions of dollars.
> If Geobacter passes its tests, the Energy Department is to decide
> whether and where to begin large-scale application.
> But public reaction to the use of bacteria, like other genetic
> experiments, could be hostile. Lovley contends that Geobacter is
> harmless. "They're already in the environment," he said.
> Geobacter also can be used to turn toxic petroleum by-products, such as
> benzene, into inoffensive carbon dioxide.
> Geobacter's ability to make electricity from rust is generating
> interest. It removes electrons from an iron atom, known as Fe-2, and
> converts it into another form, Fe-3, the basis of ordinary rust.
> Lovley's lab has exploited this bit of energy to light electric bulbs
> and power a toy car.
> He predicted bacteria power could be used in less-developed countries to
> charge batteries and run radios, televisions or computers.
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