University of New Hampshire
Mentor: Dr. Nancy Kinner and Zachery Magdol, UNH Department of Civil Engineering
Creating a Synthetic Brine Channel for Future Research Applications
Since Arctic ice is melting, proposed drilling and shipment of oil on barges will become more frequent. The probability of spilled oil becoming trapped in Arctic ice will greatly increase and so will the need for effective remediation. It is imperative to understand the environment within Arctic ice and how oil behaves in that environment. It is vital to know how fast microorganisms within Arctic ice can degrade oil, because this knowledge can greatly influence remediation methods. The barrier to conducting research on biodegradation rates of oil in ice is the limited accessibility of ice samples. Therefore, the Arctic ice environment must be simulated in a laboratory.
In previous research, the ice was grown in a laboratory. However, growing ice to obtain the brine channels in which the microorganisms live is difficult and time consuming. I am proposing to design a synthetic brine channel as a more practical alternative than growing ice. The synthetic brine channels will be constructed from plastic or ceramic tubing and seeded with microorganisms, which will be exposed to oil. The microbial degradation rate of oil can then be tested while the environment can be manipulated to determine if factors such as temperature and salinity cause changes in the degradation rate. Using synthetic channels will also make it easier to run replicate samples to facilitate statistical analysis.