8/7/13: Using Bacteria to Clean Frack Water

Two MSI PIs, Professor Larry Wackett (BMBB, BioTechnology Institute) and Professor Michael Sadowsky (Soil, Water, and Climate, BioTechnology Institute), are part of a team developing a silica sponge stuffed with bacteria that can eat the contaminants in water that are a result of the hydrofracturing process. This process, also called fracking, uses millions of gallons of water.

The new technology involves bacteria embedded in porous silica fibers. Because the many of the contaminants in frack water are organic, they are potential food for bacteria. The team looks for bacteria that will eat the specific contaminants. The team has filed for a patent for this technology. An article about the project appeared recently on the UMNews website.

Professor Wackett uses MSI’s genomics resources in coordination with experiments to help identify novel metabolism and biocatalytic reactions in organisms. Professor Sadowsky uses MSI’s resources for the Minnesota Mississippi Metagenome Project, which aims to provide a greater understanding of human activity’s impact on the water of the Mississippi River. Professors Wackett and Sadowsky are working with Professor Alptekin Aksan in the Department of Mechanical Engineering on this project.