Since arriving in the US Great Lakes in the 1980s as an invasive species, zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) have become a major biofouler, blocking water cooling systems of power stations and water treatment plants and costing ~$1B+ per year. The most widely used method of control is chlorination - although with limited effectiveness, as zebra mussels detect the toxin and close their valves for up to 3 weeks until it has dispersed. Dosing waterways with chlorine also has negative environmental effects on other wildlife.
'The BioBullet' was engineered as a more effective alternative to chlorination in conrtolling infestations of zebra mussels in industrial waterways. The BioBullet is a micro-particle comprised of an active pesticide (pottasium chloride or KCl) encapsulated by an edible outer-layer (a lipid or fat-like material). It functions much like a "poison-pill" for zebra mussels - the edible outer layer tricks the mussel into continuing to feed naturally while the active ingredient (pesticide) is digested.
In experiments, BioBullets were shown to be x10 more effective than controls in reducing zebra mussel infestations. Furthermore, we engineered the particles to use dramatically less pestiticide - almost eliminating the risk of pollution to the wider environment.
A company was spun-out of Cambridge University to commercialize the technology (BioBullets Inc) and is owned/ operated by one of the Principal Investigators.
Dr Geoff Moggridge (Chenical Engineering, Cambridge University)
Dr Dave Aldridge (Zoology, Cambridge University)
Professor Ed Cussler (Chemical Engineering, University of Minnesota)
Fellow chemical engineering students (Ian Duffy, Jez Carey)