Slick moppers

Published: Friday 15 March 1996

TWO marine bacteria, isolated by biotechnologists of the Central Agricultural Research Institute, Port Blair, Andamans, could prove to be a boon in managi 'ng oil spills. The two bacteria proved to be highly efficient in degrading oil almost completely in less than a month. More than 90 per cent of oil substrates - spilled oil, fuel oil like engine and gear oil, burnt engine oil and xylene - were degraded by these 'bacteria within four weeks.

These bacteria produce, natural biodegradable chemicals to break down oil, which are believed to be more efficient and safer than the toxic synthetic chemicals used in emulsification (dispersing the oil phase into water) of oil during oil spills. The .whitish, gummy, insoluble substances called polymeric emulsifying agents produced by the bacteria help in the emulsification process. It was found that in the presence of the agents, emulsification was at least 25 times higher thim in samples that did not contain these substances.

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