Many researchers are turning to Nature for problem-solving inspiration. Elizabeth Edwards, Professor in the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry and Director of Biozoneat the University of Toronto, is using single-celled microorganisms to clean up contaminated water.
“Little microorganisms, single-celled creatures, use the things that we think are nasty – contaminants or poisons – they can use them as their food,” says Prof. Edwards.
Using molecular biology, analytical chemistry, and genetics, Prof. Edwards’ lab studies microbial communities to understand how they perform these biodegradation reactions. They can then use this information to tailor the conditions under which these creatures work and speed up the rate at which they decompose contaminants. The Edwards lab also looks for new microbial species that perform ever newer biotransformation reactions.
One such microorganism culture that the Edwards lab identified is now being sold worldwide through the spin-off company SiREM. This specialized microorganism can degrade PERC and other highly related industrial solvents. Contaminated industrial sites can now release it to remediate the area.
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