Burning sulfur-containing fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, contributes significantly to global environmental problems, such as air pollution and acid rain, besides contributing to the loss of the ozone layer. One method of managing sulfur compounds released as byproducts from industrial processes is to scrub them out using chemical treatments and activated charcoal beds. A lower-cost solution relies on incorporating alkaliphic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria into biofilters to convert the volatile and toxic compounds into insoluble sulfur for easier removal.
Discovered in the last decade, these bacteria have been found to thrive in habitats that span the full pH range. The bacteria could have applications for remediating sulfur pollution in industrial and municipal waste streams. To better understand these bacteria, the project calls for sequencing alkaliphic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria that were isolated from soda lakes in Kenya and Russia. Aside from the bacteria’s potential bioremediation applications, they could also have a bioenergy application and be involved in the downstream processing of natural gas and biogas, which tend to be contaminated with hydrogen sulfide that can corrode steel or other metal compounds used in machinery.
Principal Investigators: Ulrike Kappler, University of Queensland, Australia
Program: CSP 2010