Hydrocarbon Degradation in Mixed Environments

Zachary Scott


Hydrocarbon degradation is a form of bioremediation that involves the breaking down of substance such as benzene and toluene, in a contaminated environment, into carbon dioxide or other useful forms by a microorganism. Much research has been done, using numerous forms of aerobic bacteria, which has led to the identification of several genes responsible for the ability to break down the hydrocarbons. These aerobic bacteria have been able to “clean” up high levels of hydrocarbons in a lab setting in a short period of time. By testing the genes of genetic material found in environmental samples, anaerobic microorganisms containing the necessary genes have been found. But efforts to culture these bacteria in the lab and have them break down hydrocarbons have been unsuccessful to this point. At this time the use of microorganisms in the cleanup of spills or waste sites is not practical because many of the environments are anaerobic and have high levels of other chemicals that are detrimental to the bacteria. It is not know if it will ever be practical to use microorganism for cleaning up these environments.

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