Microbial Pb(II)-precipitation : the influence of oxygen on Pb(II)-removal from aqueous environment and the resulting precipitate identity

21 Nov 2019

The study aimed to quantify the lead(II) bio-precipitation effectiveness, and the produced precipitate identities, of industrial consortia under aerobic and anaerobic batch conditions. The consortia were obtained from an automotive battery recycling plant and an operational lead mine in South Africa. The experiments were performed in the complex growth medium Luria–Bertani broth containing 80 ppm lead(II). The precipitation and corresponding removal of lead(II) were successfully achieved for both aerobic (yellow/brown precipitate) and anaerobic (dark grey/black precipitate) conditions. The removal of lead(II) followed similar trends for both aeration conditions, with the majority of lead(II) removed within the initial 48 h, followed by a marked decline in removal rate for the remainder of the experiments. The final lead(II) removal ranged between 78.11 ± 4.02% and 88.76 ± 3.98% recorded after 144 h. The precipitates were analysed using XPS which indicated the presence of exclusively PbO and elemental lead in the aerobic precipitates, while PbO, PbS, and elemental lead were present in the anaerobic precipitates. The results indicated an oxidation–reduction mechanism with lead(II) as an electron acceptor in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, while a sulphide-liberation catabolism of sulphur-containing amino acids was evident exclusively in the anaerobic runs. This study provides the first report of bacterial bio-reduction in aqueous lead(II) to elemental lead through a dissimilatory lead reduction mechanism. It further provides support for the application of bioremediation for the removal and recovery of lead from industrial waste streams through the application of bacterial biocatalysts for direct elemental lead recovery.