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News Picks : Microbial life discovered in water droplets in oil

By: Physics Today
08 August 2014

Nature: Microorganisms and bacteria have been found living in tiny water droplets suspended in the largest natural asphalt lake in the world—Pitch Lake on the island of Trinidad. In a study published today in Science, researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry to examine the complex microbial communities, which were seen to be eating and processing the oil. Their findings indicate a possible strategy for oil companies to reduce biodegradation of oil reservoirs by eliminating the formation of such microdroplets. But companies might also be able to use the droplets to clean up oil spills underground where pipelines have burst. In addition, the microorganisms’ ability to thrive in such inhospitable environments has led the researchers to propose that similar life forms could exist on other worlds, such as beneath the hydrocarbon lakes of Saturn’s moon Titan.

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