Bioremediation System for Separating Nanoparticle Waste

• Removes soluble nanoparticles from water by aggregation and precipitation in solution
• Can be used to clean up metal, metal oxide, and semiconductor nanoparticles
• Inhibits growth of organisms in wastewater
• Provides a means for assessing the toxicity of carbon-based nanomaterials

• Cost-effective cleanup process for fullerene manufacturers
• Can help decontaminate wastewater
• Can reduce or prevent biofouling in a bioremediation system
• Yields information on how nanoparticles affect central carbon and energy metabolism
• Helps detect how enzymatic reactions change under environmental and genetic stresses

Fanqing Chen and Jay Keasling of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a technology that opens up new territory for bioremediation, providing for separation of carbon-based nanomaterials, such as fullerene waste, from a liquid mixture by the addition of bacterial cells. The invention has potential on two fronts, both for removing soluble toxic nanomaterials from water, and for using nanomaterials to inhibit or restrict the growth of microorganisms in a bioremediation system, thus preventing the biofouling of water.

The process involves mixing bacterial cells with a suspension of nanoparticles and waiting for clumping to occur (approximately 30 to 45 minutes) before the resulting biomass is precipitated. Centrifuging or filtering may not be necessary, and the fullerene waste can be easily separated out.

While the invention provides for the use of different organisms, the versatile and environmentally important bacterium Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 is the agent of choice, because it is non-pathogenic and can grow in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. The method was also tested on Escherichia coli W3110, a human-related enterobacterium.

In addition, the invention provides a means of investigating the charge-associated effects of fullerene derivatives on microbial structural integrity. It can also be used to index the toxicity of nanomaterials by comparing isotopomer data with standards to detect the change of certain enzymatic reactions in cell metabolism under various environmental and genetic stresses. Potentially, such data on the regulation of enzymatic activities could be used as a high-throughput approach complementary to microarray study.

Waste water from a plant manufacturing nanomaterials can be routed through a bioremediation tank containing cells of Shewanella oneidensis. After aggregation, the biomass is precipitated, separating the fullerene waste and toxic metals from clean water.

Inventor(s): Fanqing Chen and Jay Keasling

Type of Offer: Licensing

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