Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Microbes Make Mine-Waste Drinkable, Researchers Report In Science

Date:
December 7, 2000
Source:
American Association For The Advancement Of Science
Summary:
Tiny bacteria that usher dissolved zinc into a solid form may help make the removal of mining waste more efficient in groundwater and wetlands, according to a study in the 1 December issue of Science.

Tiny bacteria that usher dissolved zinc into a solid form may help make the removal of mining waste more efficient in groundwater and wetlands, according to a study in the 1 December issue of Science.

Related Articles


The bacteria can clean up contaminated water to meet drinking standards after they strip water of impurities and re-package them into zinc sulfide crystals called sphalerite.

Characterized by their ability to naturally form sulfides, these bacteria may eventually explain how many low temperature zinc ore deposits formed throughout geologic time in complex, natural systems, according to the interdisciplinary U.S. and Australian research team.

Scuba divers collected the bacteria from a flooded tunnel in Tennyson, Wisconsin. The scientists found that members of this particular family of bacteria, Desulfobacteriaceae, grow and help mineralize microscopic beads of sphalerite within a protective "biofilm" that holds together a microbial community.

These tiny spheres, known as "aggregates," cluster from the bacteria and measure up to 10 nanometers in diameter each. With a zinc concentration a million times more than the surrounding water, they can each hold up to a billion zinc sulfide particles and even contain trace amounts of selenium and arsenic.

Many sulfate-reducing bacteria thrive in environments that totally lack oxygen, but some species actually thrive at low levels of aeration, in which sulfide precipitation should offer an effective means to biologically remove elements in contaminated groundwater and wetlands, suggest Matthias Labrenz of University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-authors.

The activity of these bacteria may have played a role in prehistoric geochemical cycles when the Earth had not yet accumulated significantly great amounts of atmospheric oxygen. Presence of the bacteria may be indicated by the deposits of zinc sulfide ores corresponding to this geologic period.

The team of scientists used x-ray experiments to analyze and determine that in the bacteria of study, aggregates found within the biofilm comprise of essentially pure zinc sulfide. Geochemical modeling showed that concentrations of zinc in the groundwater solution as low as one part per million in the vicinity of the bacteria induced sphalerite precipitation at low temperatures.

Genetic tests and unique bacterial lipid signatures, which compare the structures of fatty acid molecules in the biofilm, showed that the sphalerite-forming bacteria came from the same taxonomic group. Fluorescent probing further confirmed their identification, and showed that the bacteria most responsible for zinc sulfide precipitation grew in parts of the microbe community that experienced lower oxygen levels.

Joining Matthias Labrenz in this research were Gregory K. Druschel, Tamara Thomsen-Ebert, Genjamin Gilbert, Susan A. Welch, Gelsomina De Stasio, Philip L. Bond and Jillian F. Banfield at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, WI; Kenneth M. Kemner, Barry Lai and Shelly D. Kelly at Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL; and Graham A. Logan and Roger E. Summons at Australian Geological Survey Organisation, Canberra, Australia.

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences, National Science Foundation Division of Earth Sciences Programs, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Astrobiology Institute.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Association For The Advancement Of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Association For The Advancement Of Science. "Microbes Make Mine-Waste Drinkable, Researchers Report In Science ." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 December 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001204072539.htm>.
American Association For The Advancement Of Science. (2000, December 7). Microbes Make Mine-Waste Drinkable, Researchers Report In Science . ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001204072539.htm
American Association For The Advancement Of Science. "Microbes Make Mine-Waste Drinkable, Researchers Report In Science ." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001204072539.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins