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Carbonate Crystals Precipitated by Freshwater Bacteria and Their Use as a Limestone Consolidant

Zamarreño, Dania V., Inkpen, Robert, May, Eric
Applied and environmental microbiology 2009 v.75 no.18 pp. 5981-5990
bacteria, carbonates, cell aggregates, chlorides, concrete, crystals, fluorescence, freshwater, image analysis, limestone, methylene blue, polysaccharides, tetrazolium, viability
Bacterial carbonate precipitation is known to be a natural phenomenon associated with a wide range of bacterial species. Recently, the ability of bacteria to produce carbonates has been studied for its value in the conservation of limestone monuments and concrete. This paper describes investigations of carbonate crystals precipitated by freshwater bacteria by means of histological (Loeffler's methylene blue and alcian blue-periodic acid-Schiff stain) and fluorescence (CTC [5-cyano-2,3-ditolyl tetrazolium chloride]) stains, determination of cell viability inside carbonate crystals, and pore size reduction in limestone by image analysis. Carbonate crystals were found to be composed of bacteria embedded in a matrix of neutral and acid polysaccharides. Cell viability inside the carbonate crystals decreased with time. On stone, bacteria were found to form carbonate crystals, with only a few bacteria remaining as isolated cells or as cell aggregates. Pore size was reduced by about 50%, but no blockage was detected. Taken together, the results of this research provide some reassurance to conservators that biocalcification by bacteria could be a safe consolidation tool in a restoration strategy for building stone conservation.