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Researchers make efforts to aid the Gulf

University of Mississippi researchers aid the Gulf clean-up process with plans to decontaminate oysters from the Gulf.


With many Mississippians still being affected by the 2010 BP oil spill, it is no wonder as to why University of Mississippi researchers are exploring ways to clean up crude oil found in oysters from the Gulf.

The University’s latest proposal involves oyster contamination clean up and detection. This is a two-step process, in which they will apply eco-friendly compounds to contaminated oysters and then examine them under a high-resolution mass imaging facility.

Expected to occur over a three-year span, the group is proposing that the funding of $2,985,345 be provided toward their efforts.

“Ultimately the process can clean up spilled oil in a very cheap and eco-friendly way,” University of Mississippi graduate student Jooneseok Oh said.

“Oysters are filter feeders, so they are not able to ingest the large chunks of oil itself,” University of Mississippi graduate student John Bowling said. “However, our concern is the organic molecules that leach into the water from the oil that could contaminate them.”

The University’s researchers have come up with a method they believe would target the contaminated oysters.

“We would do so by using a metal such as titanium dioxide,” Oh said. “It has been proven to significantly degrade crude oil in oysters. Titanium is also heavy, so it will be able to sit at the bottom of the water.”

And how exactly does the process of oyster decontamination work?

“Titanium dioxide comes in a powder form that is rather cheap,” Oh said. “It is believed that it is not impacting on the environment because it degrades as soon as the decontamination process begins. The titanium dioxide compound, which sits on the bottom of the ocean, is activated by UV rays, which would of course come from our sun. Crude oil is only composed of hydrocarbons, and once you apply UV rays to the titanium dioxide, it will activate which will then degrade the hydro carbon in the crude oil.”

Once this process is complete the oysters will have hopefully been decontaminated.

Then continuing on to the next step, the team will ensure that the oysters have been decontaminated by using the high-resolution mass imaging facility.

“Once the contaminated oyster is in our procession, we can take tissue from the oyster and place it on the camera,” Oh said.

“We will then be able to see where the contamination still is at. Our findings thus far have been that the oil has degraded or disappeared.”

Oh said the project is promising. After the team comes up with a method of implementing it, the team hopes to patent the project and apply it to the oil spill clean-up process.