Using novel bacterial strains, scientists have successfully removed sulphur from fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal. Sulphur is one of the major pollutants emitted during the combustion of fossil fuels.
Scientists from CSIR-Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (CSIR-IMMT) in Bhubaneswar used four bacterial strains that use dibenzothiophene (an organic sulphur compound which is a major contaminant of fossil fuel) as an energy source thereby getting rid of the sulphur.
To find novel bacterial strains that can selectively eliminate this organic sulphur, the researchers searched the microbial type culture collection (MTCC) of CSIR-IMTECH (Institute of Microbial Technology) and selected 10 bacterial strains with dsz genes.
The selected bacteria were grown in a medium supplemented with dibenzothiophene and other nutrients required for growth. They found that four bacteria were able to use almost 99% of the sulphur compound in just 10 days. The four strains are Rhodococcus rhodochrous, Arthrobacter sulfureou, Gordonia rubropertinita and Rhodococcus erythropolis.
The new process is also eco-friendly and economical, and these new bacterial strains can be potentially explored for the removal of sulphur from fossil fuels on a commercial scale.