Biomineralization, Bioremediation and Biorecovery of Toxic Metals and Radionuclides


Gadd, Geoffrey Michael; Pan, Xiangliang
GEOMICROBIOLOGY JOURNAL Volume: 33 Issue: 3-4 Special Issue: SI Pages: 175-178


Metal and mineral transformations are a cornerstone of geomicrobiological processes. Of central importance are the mechanisms by which microorganisms alter the speciation and mobility of metals, including their properties of mineral dissolution or mineral formation. Such processes underpin natural biogeochemical cycles for metals, and related elements such as metalloids, and metal radionuclides, as well as those elements that may be commonly associated with metal compounds and minerals, e.g., P and S. They may also determine the fate of contaminant toxic metals and radionuclides when introduced or redistributed in the environment as a result of natural or anthropogenic activities. Such contamination is an increasing problem, and microbe-based systems are increasingly viewed as potentially useful approaches for bioremediation, as well as for element biorecovery. Biomineralization is a general term for the processes by which living organisms form minerals, and this can result in metal removal from solution providing a means of detoxification as well as biorecovery. Dead biota and derived products may also provide a template for mineral deposition, the reversibility, or otherwise, of the reaction depending on physico-chemical conditions. The most common biominerals precipitated by microbes include oxides, phosphates, sulfides and oxalates, and these can have special chemical properties such as high metal sorption capacities and redox catalysis. Furthermore, some biominerals may be deposited in nanoscale dimensions, providing further significant physical, chemical and biological properties of applied significance. The purpose of this Special Issue of the Geomicrobiology Journal on Biomineralization, Bioremediation and Biorecovery is to bring together and highlight some specific examples of metal and radionuclide biomineralization by microorganisms from the different major microbial groups such as cyanobacteria, bacteria, microalgae and fungi. A range of elements and organisms are covered together with a variety of environmental and industrial contexts where a biomineralization approach may assist bioremediation, metal biorecovery or substrate stability.