Microbes are used as workhorses in the production of many compounds, from fuel, to pharmaceuticals, to chemicals. They are also used in mining, insect and disease control, genetic engineering and some are even used to make computer biochips.
FUEL PRODUCTION – ethanol production for automobile fuel.
MINING – leaching of metals from ore-bearing rocks by microbes.
• 5% of world’s copper ore is produced by bio-leaching
• Uranium is mined with help of bacteria
BIOCONTROL – Using microbes to combat pests is called biocontrol. One of the most popular forms of biocontrol is the use of Bacillus thuriengensis, a bacterium that produces a toxin that kills over 40 problem pests such as the gypsy moth.
COMPUTER BIOCHIPS – Microorganisms may some day be used to produce protein-based microprocessors with more switches than conventional microchips.
GENETIC ENGINEERING – Some microorganisms are used to carry genes into other organisms. See Mercenary Microbes to learn more about the bacterium Agrobacterium and its role in genetically engineering plants.