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Oil-Eating Microbes for Gulf Spill

A Florida start-up thinks it can save the Gulf; experts doubt it

3 min read

9 June 2010—Two weeks ago, Ben Lyons, a research scientist and engineer at the small biotech firm Evolugate, hopped in his car and drove from his lab in Gainesville, Fla., to New Orleans. There he talked his way onto a 9-meter catamaran that was heading out on a research trip into the Gulf of Mexico to investigate the massive oil spill from a gushing BP well.

About 30 kilometers south of the Mississippi River Delta, Lyons scooped up a dozen liters of water and oil. That mixture now fills his company’s bioreactor, a 4-meter-long translucent tube with a laser that shoots beams through the liquid. Inside, populations of 18 types of oil-eating microorganisms are feasting on BP’s oil.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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