Project Info

Microbial Influenced Corrosion of Infrastructure

John Spear

Project Goals and Description:

Infrastructure, of nearly any kind of material (e.g., concrete, wood, metal, plastics) rots. Many factors come into play for this decay, chemical, physical and the most overlooked, biological. Microorganisms eat metal and they are really good at this. It is thought that corrosion of steel, for example, is a $40 billion per year problem--just in the U.S. To date, we have been successful in describing some aspects of microbial influenced corrosion (MIC) on metals, but there is much to do. We would like to continue this work on some local source of some rotting piece of infrastructure to see what else we can learn.

More Information:

Grand Challenge: Restore and improve urban infrastructure.
Sowards, J.W., C.H.D. Williamson, T.S. Weeks, J.D. McColskey, and J.R. Spear.  2014.  “The Effect of Acetobacter sp. and a Sulfate-Reducing Bacterial Consortium from Ethanol Fuel Environments on Fatigue Crack Propagation in Pipeline and Storage Tank Steels.”  Corrosion Science, 79: 128-138. Al-Abbas, F.M., C. Williamson, S.M. Bhola, J.R. Spear, D.L. Olson, B. Mishra and A. Kakpovbia.  2013.  “Microbial Corrosion in Linepipe Steel under the Influence of Sulfate Reducing Consortium Isolated from an Oil Field.”  J. Materials Eng. and Performance, 22(11): 3517-3529, (doi 10.1007/s11665-013-0627-7).

Primary Contacts:

John Spear,

Student Preparation


--Some knowledge of biology / microbiology --Passion to learn --Creative thinker


Three to five hours of time per week


Field sample collection and handling; phase contrast microscopy; epifluorescent microscopy; scanning electron microscopy; DNA extraction and sequence preparation; potentially some bioinformatic analysis of DNA sequence


Selected student will primarily be working one on one with a graduate student from the research group. PI Spear will oversee the work and meet weekly to biweekly with the undergraduate to consider all aspects of the work. We are an open research group of diverse individuals where human connection and personal knowledge are embraced as they often lead to surprising insights and discovery--always a goal!


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