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RE: 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. 


For more news or to subscribe, please visit http://www.freep.com 


> Close, but not exactly.
> On Monday, July 26, 2004, at 06:30 PM, Kitty wrote:
> > Life is a germ and germ is life, eh?
> >
> > Kitty

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