Metal immobilization by microbes

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The contact of soluble metal species with microbial cells results in in-situ transformations of the targeted species. As a consequence, the metals are immobilised by the microbial biomass. Soluble metal and metalloid species may be sequestered from water streams via their interaction with microbial cells by active (i.e. metabolic/energy dependent) and passive (i.e. non metabolic/energy independent) processes.

Metabolically mediated immobilisation of metal species by active microbial cells includes different mechanisms such as bioprecipitation and biological reduction/oxidation.

Passive metal uptake by microbial cells is described by the general term biosorption and includes different mechanisms of physico-chemical interaction between the microbial cell biopolymers and the metal species such as complexation, chelation, ion exchange and precipitation.

Both living/metabolizing and non-metabolizing microbial cells may be used in technology development for:

  1. The removal of metals from aqueous industrial effluents
  2. Metal recovery from industrial process streams
  3. Bioremediation of contaminated surface waters and groundwater

Among the existing microorganisms in nature, bacteria, fungi, yeasts and algae are used in most cases for metal and metalloid sequestering from water streams.

See also

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