Scientists from CSIR-Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (CSIR-IMMT) have found four bacterial strains that remove sulphur from fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal. Sulphur is one of the major pollutants emitted during the combustion of fossil fuels.
The four bacterial strains are Rhodococcus rhodochrous, Arthrobacter sulfureou, Gordonia rubropertinita and Rhodococcus erythropolis. They use dibenzothiophene, an organic sulphur compound which is major contaminant of fossil fuel as energy source thereby getting rid of sulphur.
They were selected from 10 bacterial strains with dsz genes to find novel bacterial strains that can selectively eliminate this organic sulphur. The dsz genes are central to sustainable bio-desulfurization (a non-invasive process of sulfur removal from fuels by means of living organisms). The selected bacteria were grown in medium supplemented with dibenzothiophene and other nutrients required for growth.
It was found that four bacteria were able to use almost 99% of sulphur compound in just 10 days. Researchers were also able to identify process of bio-desulfurization of these bacterial strains through specific pathway (4-S pathway).
The process of bio-desulfurization using these four bacterial strains is also eco-friendly and economical. These bacterial strains can be potentially used on commercial scale for removal of sulphur from fossil fuels on commercial scale.