What is Bioremediation

What is Bioremediation

Environmental pollution, if not controlled in time, will prove to be the nemesis of Mother Nature. Thanks to biotechnology growth, processes like bioremediation have the potential to clean a significant portion of the waste effectively. Wondering how? Keep reading to know further.
What is bioremediation? Bioremediation is a gift of the growing biotechnology field to the world that is facing the threats of severe forms of environmental pollution. As the name suggests, bioremediation is made by joining two words; bio (related to biology) and remediation (to provide a remedy). Therefore, in the process of bioremediation, living organisms (plants, microorganisms) are used as potential sources to clean wastes from contaminated water or soil. Isn't it fascinating to discover that cultures of bacteria can eat up tons of wastes! Bioremediation for oil spills has become popular in the recent few years. It has been used to clean pollutants, especially hydrocarbons from seas during oil spill incidents.

What is Bioremediation Process: An Overview

If you are wondering that how can organisms help in reduction of pollution, then you need to understand various steps involved in the bioremediation process. Metabolism is an essential process carried out in the cells of all organisms, be it bacteria, fungi or human beings. Metabolic activities are continuously in operation in the cells through various types of chemical reactions. Generally, the process of metabolism is carried in two ways:
  • Anabolism: In this phase of metabolism, cells construct molecules from smaller units present in the body. This process requires energy that is provided by another phase, catabolism.
  • Catabolism: Cells break complex molecular structures to simpler elements to release energy. Complex chemicals like lipids, nucleic acids, proteins are broken into simpler units like mono-saccharides and amino acids respectively. The energy released in catabolism is used to conduct tasks in the anabolism process.
The chemicals present in pollutant areas, soils, rivers and seas are treated by bioremediation process. If proper bacteria culture are placed in seas that face severe water pollution, the anabolism and catabolism processes going on in these cells will gradually take up necessary minerals from the pollutants and clean the water body. Microorganisms need variety of chemicals for cell building that includes phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sodium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, etc. All these chemicals are found in abundance in contaminated areas.

There are various types of bioremediation processes, named after the specific treatments or methods that are used in the process. If the contaminants are treated at the site, it is said to be in situ treatment and if the contaminated material is taken elsewhere for treatment, it is known as ex situ. In situ treatment is always a difficult task, as tackling natural conditions like soil quality, weather, etc., are difficult. In Phytoremeditation, transgenic plants are used for storing toxic chemicals like lead or mercury in their above root parts, which are harvested after sometime. In Biostimulation, nitrogen and oxygen is mixed in the water to stimulate the growth of bacteria. The water body is monitored carefully to know if the bacteria growth is causing a drop in the pollution. In another type of bioremediation, known as Intrinsic bioremediation, microorganisms grow naturally in contaminated soil or water to clean water. In Bioaugmentation, specific microorganisms are added in the soil or water to clean them up.

Nature has been designed in such a way that it maintains ecology and has self cleaning mechanisms. The ever growing field of biotechnology uses this very simple concept to provide us a cleaner environment. Scientists are trying to study and develop various microorganisms that can be used to clean specific pollutants. The field of genetic engineering is expanding by leaps and bounds and researchers are working towards producing pollutant specific microorganisms.

After wastes are over in a contaminated area, the bacteria will naturally die due to lack of food. Therefore, bioremediation has no side effects and it doesn't produce any secondary environmental pollutants! Moreover, it is an extremely cost-effective method for cleaning huge areas of environmental pollution. So did you get what is bioremediation? It is, indeed, one of the most sought after mechanisms for bioremediating oil and gas industry water, not to mention soil pollution.