11 July 1997 Active ultramicrobacterial alteration of iron in granite
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Abstract
Microorganisms are able to exist in extreme environments, where they often form biofilms. We are investigating an iron metabolizing biofilm consortium derived from groundwater draining the Canadian Shield. This was first discovered in the Underground Research Laboratory of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., where its influence on the management of nuclear fuel waste was examined. Incubations have shown that the microbial consortium contains different morphological forms. Ultramicrobacteria, 0.3 micrometers diameter cocci, are dominant on magnetite surfaces, which they are able to transform rapidly to hematite. Larger rods, 1.0 micrometers long, aggregate on silicon minerals containing little iron. Carbon is limited in these natural groundwaters so that iron is utilized as an alternative energy source. The cell surface of the organisms and the extracellular polymers of the biofilm are both negatively-charged allowing metal cations to be quickly bound by physicochemical sorption, thus providing nucleation sites for mineralization within the boundaries. The biofilm consortium is able to mediate a wide range of iron reactions. Aerobically a ferric gel is precipitated throughout the biofilm slime, which alters first to ferrihydrite and later to hematite. When anaerobic fermentation produces a reducing environment the iron is converted to the ferrous state which may then be precipitated as ferrous hydroxide, vivianite or siderite. Since iron is widespread in the natural environment, these reactions could have important geochemical implications.
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D. Ann Brown, Barbara L. Sherriff, "Active ultramicrobacterial alteration of iron in granite", Proc. SPIE 3111, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for the Investigation of Extraterrestrial Microorganisms, (11 July 1997); doi: 10.1117/12.278807; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.278807
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