Leptospirillum ferriphilum bacteria eat a metal nail in three days
Chilean scientist Nadac Reales, in her laboratory in the industrial city of Antofagasta, has learned how to stimulate bacteria to quickly absorb metals. Microorganisms of the species Leptospirillum ferriphilum trigger oxidative processes and dissolve metals naturally, but do so very slowly. Reales experimentally derived a simple way – it is necessary to make the bacteria to starve beforehand.
If in a normal situation Leptospirillum ferriphilum will dissolve the metal nail about two months, then being hungry cope with it just three days. The bacteria have a kind of instinct – in the long absence of food, they switch to the maximum rate of absorption of all available material when it appears. Reales wants to use this trick to try to dissolve the huge body of a dump truck.
The scientist has no shortage of materials to experiment with; the same bodies, as well as other large mining machine parts, are scattered in abundance throughout the Atacama Desert. Traditionally in Chile, the industry has been the last to care about the environment, with worn-out machinery and production waste not being properly disposed of. The country has a huge amount of rusty metal, rock and metal dust, which will never be profitable to recycle. Therefore, the idea of feeding it all to hungry bacteria, thereby cleaning up the environment at least a little bit, looks very attractive.