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Researchers Explore Use of Microbes to Eliminate MTBE.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey recently announced that university researchers have been investigating the use of microbes to rid the environment of the fuel additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).

According to Rutgers, the researchers describe in a February 2006 paper featured in "Applied and Environmental Microbiology" a tool they believe will help identify the key bacteria capable of breaking down MTBE.

"While gasoline hydrocarbons are much more toxic than MTBE, they are just candy to microbes and don't become as persistent a problem," said Max Haggblom, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers, and the Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment on Rutgers' Cook College campus.

In the journal article, Rutgers said the researchers detail a way to facilitate the of anaerobic bacteria in cleaning up MTBE by employing carbon isotope fractionation -- the changes in the isotopic ratios of carbon (its different molecular versions, carbon-12 and carbon-13) brought about from the selective degradation of the carbon-12 form in the case of MTBE.

"So when the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 decreases, it indicates the presence of the kind of bacteria we are looking for," said Haggblom. "This approach also will help us eventually home in on precisely which bacterium is doing the eating -- possibly the best choice for large-scale underground applications."

Contact: Joseph Blumberg, Rutgers, phone 732-932-7084 ext 652, e-mail

(EIN STAFF: 3/22)
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Publication:Mobile Emissions Today
Date:Mar 24, 2006
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