What is bioremediation?

Bioremediation is a branch of biotechnology that is responsible for all the processes that contribute to fully or partially recover a contaminated space through the use of living organisms.

The term bioremediation emerged in the 1980s, when biotechnological advances made it possible to discover the potential of certain microorganisms to absorb and degrade organic compounds.

In this sense, living organisms used in decontamination processes can have a biological origin or they can be created in the laboratory using genetic engineering techniques to obtain specific characteristics.

Bioremediation is also known as bioremediation.

Types of bioremediation

There are three types of bioremediation:

1.enzymatic degradation

It refers to decontamination through the use of enzymes produced in industrial quantities that are responsible for degrading toxic components.

An example of enzymatic bioremediation would be the use of peroxidase, an enzyme that is used to degrade phenols present in wastewater. Phenols are aromatic organic compounds that can be co-cancer, that is, they can stimulate cancer formation when combined with another carcinogenic compound.

2.Microbial remediation

It is a type of bioremediation that uses native or inoculated bacteria or fungi that have the ability to transform toxic compounds into smaller substances. This does not eliminate the polluting factor but it does help reduce its toxicity.

An emblematic example of microbial remediation is the use of certain bacteria in oil spills, since they have the ability to degrade some components present in hydrocarbons.

3. Phytoremediation

It is a type of bio-correction that requires the use of plants to decontaminate the environment.

In this sense, there are six types of phytoremediation:

3.1 Phytoextraction

In this case, the leaves and roots of the plants are used to concentrate metals.

An example of phytoextraction is the use of quelite (Amaranthus hybridus L.), a plant with the ability to absorb lead and cadmium present in the soil.

3.2 Phytodegradation

It is a type of bioremediation in which plants absorb and concentrate polluting substances to convert them into simpler substances and therefore less toxic or in the best of cases, harmless.

An example of phytodegradation is poplars (Populus) that can degrade molecules of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a highly polluting chemical used in manufacturing.

3.3 Phytostabilization

It refers to the use of plants that are tolerant to heavy metals to prevent these components from entering the subsoil or the atmosphere.

An example of bioremediation by phytostabilization is the use of Vulneralia (Anthyllis Vulneraria) for the absorption of cadmium, zinc and lead.

3.4 Rhizofiltration

It is a technique that uses the roots of certain plant species to absorb, concentrate and degrade heavy metals found in aquatic environments.

An example of rhizofiltration was the use of sunflower plants (Helianthus annuus) to absorb radioactive components in the effluents near Chernobyl, in Ukraine, after the nuclear accident that occurred in 1986.

3.5 Phytostimulation

It is a form of biocorrection that consists of the use of plants that stimulate the growth of microorganisms (bacteria or fungi) so that they degrade polluting substances.

An example of phytostimulation is the cultivation of grass (Festuca arundinacea) for the degradation of hydrocarbons.

3.6 Phytovolatilization

It consists of the absorption of polluting components that, upon reaching the leaves of the plants, are volatilized into the atmosphere through perspiration.

An example of phytovolatilization is poplars (Populus), which in addition to being phytodegradable, have the ability to volatilize trichlorethylene, a chemical substance used as a refrigerant and grease solvent and which is considered a carcinogenic element.

See also Biotechnology.

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