Many geological processes are influenced by the effects or presence of micro-organisms, for example the formation of crude oil or the weathering of rocks. Geomicrobiology describes and investigates these interactions between micro-organisms and minerals, rocks and fossil fuels, and is therefore closely related to a number of allied disciplines.
Knowledge of the interactions between micro-organisms and geological processes is an important prerequisite for both the extraction and refining of raw materials, as well as for treating environmental damages.
In this context, geomicrobiologists of the BGR conduct numerous investigations. Their research focuses on the geomicrobiology of the deep biosphere and on microorganisms which could be suitable for the leaching of metals from ores, tailings and industrial wastes (bioleaching, biomining), as well as on the bioremediation of mine waste which releases acid mine drainage.
Furthermore they carry out research on the microbial breakdown of hydrocarbons such as crude oil (biodegradation). BGR scientists investigate the possibility, oil to recovery with the help of microorganisms and to convert fossils fuels such as coal and crude oil to methane gas (MEOR: Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery). In addition the study of the effect of high carbon dioxide concentrations on microbial communities in deposits plays an important role these days.
Basic work of the geomicrobiologists at the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources includes the isolation and characterisation of microorganisms and the maintenance of the collection of strains (> 1000 strains). Their tasks also include the identification of metabolic products of microorganisms.
At the same time, the scientists offer interdisciplinary support to other working groups within the BGR, first of all for giving advice by the Deutsche Rohstoffagentur. They also cooperate with foreign partners in research projects, scientific-technical cooperation (WTZ), and in projects of technical cooperation (TZ).
Links to current projects:
- Metal-Bioleaching (Biomining)
- Microbial hydrocarbon-formation and -degradation
- Deep Biosphere (DFG SPP IODP).