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July 30, 2015

Beyond the Dinner Table: Solving the Problem of Microbiologically Induced Corrosion

  • Biocorrosion

By InstantLabs

By Neil Sharma

In the past on this blog, we’ve talked a lot about using molecular testing to look for things like food borne pathogens and for verifying species ID. But point-of-need based Real-Time PCR is a powerful technology that can be used in a multitude of additional areas ranging from human health to forensics. And did you know that it can also be used in the fight against corrosion?!?

The Problem:
Multiple families of microorganisms have been implicated in Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC) of metallic materials that result in billions of dollars in damage annually. MIC results from cooperative metabolism between the microorganisms and metal surfaces that accelerate the corrosion processes. A wide range of microorganisms naturally thrive in marine environments, oil reservoirs, and secondary seawater injection systems. Many have been determined to be involved in MIC. These include sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB), which have been long recognized for their role in MIC, and others such as iron reducing bacteria (IRB), methanogens and select Archaea.

Many industries, including marine transportation and shipping, chemical and oil processing, power generation, water treatment, and aviation are affected by MIC. Early accurate detection of these organisms allows for rapid treatment implementation to mitigate costs and downtime. Unfortunately, most current methods are either non-specific or require multiple days or weeks to generate actionable results.

The most commonly used detection method today is a culture based approach utilizing what are commonly referred to as ‘bug bottles.’ Dilutions of collected water or biofilm samples are added to the bottles which are then incubated for several weeks to determine is specific microorganisms are present. This process is time consuming and lacks sensitivity due to limited growth viability (< 10%) of these “bug bottle” collected microorganisms.
In contradistinction to the limitations of culture based methods, qPCR provides accurate results. However traditional qPCR implementation requires offsite processing that can add days or even weeks to result due to sample shipping and other delays.

The Solution:
InstantLabs has partnered with a company in the oil and gas industry to co-develop a portable point-of-need solution for testing for corrosion-related microorganisms. This project brings the same technology and ideas that make our food safety and species identification lines of products simple and easy to use at the point of need to a new arena, offering the same benefits to a whole new segment. Stay tuned for more details.

Neil Sharma is a molecular biologist and technology enthusiast. His passion is developing new and innovative products that solve important problems. He has a Ph.D. from Rice University and currently lives in Bethesda, Maryland.