Metal-Microbe Mineral Interactions

metal microbe

Interactions between microorganisms, minerals and dissolved metals can influence a variety of geochemical processes. For example, due to their extremely high surface-area-to-volume ratio, and due to the presence of specific cell wall functional groups with high affinities for dissolved metals, bacterial surfaces are very efficient metal sorbents.

Adsorption of metals by bacteria may affect mineral dissolution and precipitation, transport of metallic contaminants, and formation of some low-temperature ore deposits. Further, because metal adsorption affects the chemical and electric properties of the cell surfaces, it may also affect their ability to adsorb organics or to adhere to mineral surfaces. In addition to the reactivity of their surfaces, it is their distribution and quantity that lead bacteria to influence so many important geochemical processes.

Bacteria are found in almost all fluid-rock systems, including fresh and saline surface waters, groundwaters, deep-sea hydrothermal systems and deep sedimentary basins. Bacteria do not merely exist in these fluid-rock systems, they proliferate.

With their ubiquity and their ability to adsorb metals considered together, it becomes apparent that bacteria have the potential to influence the distribution and transport of mass in many fluid-rock systems.

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