Kaluzhin: Omnivorous bacteria can process plastic into food and clean oil-contaminated soils
Back in 1986 scientists from Tomsk State University (TSU) were working on the problems involved in cleaning up oil spills.
This research lead to the discovery of oil-eating bacteria. Vladimir Kaluzhin, a senior research associate with the Research Institute for Biology and Biophysics at Tomsk State University, became interested in finding out how these microorganisms respond to other substances. After all, combinations of carbon bonds are the basis of all organic matter.
“We place different kinds of bacteria on organic matter and ensure special conditions. The bacteria that start consuming the organic matter and accumulating biomass become the main candidates for further selection,” said Vladimir Kaluzhin describing his research.
Kaluzhin’s bacteria consume oil waste, organic glass and even various different kinds of plastics, which are considered almost non-biodegradable in the environment. The scientist also identified microorganisms that eat copper sulfate, strontium, zinc, and other substances.
“Some substances, such as glucose, are consumed by all microorganisms. Some microorganisms can only consume a particular group of substances. Finally, some substances, such as petroleum, formaldehydes and creosol, can only be consumed by particular kinds of microorganisms,” Kaluzhin said.
Microorganisms grown at the Research Institute for Biology and Biophysics of Tomsk State University already “work” in different regions from Southern Kazakhstan to the Arctic Circle.
“We are working with businesses based in Russia and Kazakhstan that are active in the remediation of oil-contaminated soils,” Kaluzhin added. “From our experience, it takes bacteria between 60 and 70 days to remove an oil content of 400 grams per kilo of soil. Our technology delivers the total destruction of the contaminant materials. Due to biological combustion, they turn into carbon dioxide and water.”
In fact, the technology developed by this Tomsk scientist allows us to go even further by turning any poisonous substance, such as sodium cyanide or phenol, into a product that is even fit for human consumption.
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How can a microwave save a frostbitten rabbit?
Tomsk University scientists have developed a device to treat frostbite…
Cases of frostbite account for about 10% of all trauma cases seen in the northern regions of Russia. Treatment can last for two or more months, and almost 90% of these injuries result in disability.
However, Tomsk University scientists believe that in many cases the treatment process can be accelerated and frostbitten extremities can be saved. For several years they have been developing a device to treat frostbite.
“Microwave radiation delivers deep internal heating of the entire area,” says Gregory Dunaevsky, Professor of the Faculty of Radiophysics. “It is a well-known fact that frostbitten parts of the body can not be exposed to extreme heat from outside, because it can lead to the rupturing of deep vessels. But in the case of severe frostbite we cannot wait until the extremity reaches room temperature, because this risks incurring irreversible damage. Therefore we apply lengthy, costly treatments that do not always have a positive effect. Microwave radiation can quickly warm up the entire depth of the extremity. It is an effective and inexpensive way to save the injured organ.
The most available source of microwave radiation is the ordinary microwave oven. But that cannot be used, because the power it generates is too high. Even the “defrost” setting is not appropriate. It was necessary to modify the device to make it safe for living organisms and easy to use.
It took Vladimir Antipov, Yuri Tsiganok, and Anatoly Hlestunov from Tomsk University almost two years to modify the microwave oven. Scientists designed a complex attachment, which reduced the power of the radiation when it enters the chamber, where it freely circulates and heats the object from all sides. The output is equipped with a flexible sleeve that isolates a patient from radiation and through which the extremity is placed in the chamber.
This work has been conducted in collaboration with medical clinics at Tomsk Military Medical Institute. Its scientists led the experiments with rabbits, which were carried out at the clinics. The results were impressive – on the fourth day the experimental rabbits regained the use of their extremities.
“Now we have developed a new device that is not based on the microwave oven, but instead based on devices that can generate a microwave field with a much smaller power. Some are used not only in medicine but also for other purposes. We would like to create a portable device that could be used in ambulances and remote locations for medical assistance, because the sooner treatment starts, the better chance of full recovery we have” – Dunaevsky said.
It has already received three patents for development and a prototype version of the device has been designed. Now the main task for the developers is to find partners to collaborate with testing and help to complete the creation of this device that is so needed in Siberia and other regions of the world.
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