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.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Stay ahead of the latest trends in technology. Become an IEEE member.

This article is for IEEE members only. Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid

The rules of the Internet can also balance electricity supply and demand

13 min read
Vertical
How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid
Dan Page
DarkBlue1

Bad things happen when demand outstrips supply. We learned that lesson too well at the start of the pandemic, when demand for toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, masks, and ventilators outstripped the available supply. Today, chip shortages continue to disrupt the consumer electronics, automobile, and other sectors. Clearly, balancing the supply and demand of goods is critical for a stable, normal, functional society.

That need for balance is true of electric power grids, too. We got a heartrending reminder of this fact in February 2021, when Texas experienced an unprecedented and deadly winter freeze. Spiking demand for electric heat collided with supply problems created by frozen natural-gas equipment and below-average wind-power production. The resulting imbalance left more than 2 million households without power for days, caused at least 210 deaths, and led to economic losses of up to US $130 billion.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}