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Unusual uranium biomineralization induced by green algae: Behavior investigation and mechanism probe

Yanxia Cheng, Ting Zhang, Shunzhang Chen, Feize Li, Renwei Qing, Tu Lan, Yuanyou Yang, Jiali Liao, Ning Liu
Journal of environmental sciences (China) 2023 v.124 pp. 915-922
biomineralization, bioremediation, biosorbents, heavy metals, microalgae, pH, potassium, uranium, wastewater, China
As a biosorbent, algae are frequently used for the biotreatment or bioremediation of water contaminated by heavy metal or radionuclides. However, it is unclear that whether or not the biomineralization of these metal or radionuclides can be induced by algae in the process of bioremediation and what the mechanism is. In this work, Ankistrodsemus sp. has been used to treat the uranium-contaminated water, and more than 98% of uranium in the solution can be removed by the alga, when the initial uranium concentration ranges from 10 to 80 mg/L. Especially, an unusual phenomenon of algae-induced uranium biomineralization has been found in the process of uranium bioremediation and its mineralization mechanism has been explored by multiple approaches. It is worth noticing that the biomineralization of uranium induced by Ankistrodsemus sp. is significantly affected by contact time and pH. Uranium is captured rapidly on the cell surface via complexation with the carboxylate radical, amino and amide groups of the microalgae cells, which provides nucleation sites for the precipitation of insoluble minerals. Uranium stimulates Ankistrodsemus sp. to metabolize potassium ions (K⁺), which may endow algae with the ability to biomineralize uranium into the rose-like compreignacite (K₂[(UO₂)₆O₄(OH)₆]•8H₂O). As the time increased, the amorphous gradually converted into compreignacite crystals and a large number of crystals would expand over both inside and outside the cells. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first investigated microalgae with a time-dependent uranium biomineralization ability and superior tolerance to uranium. This work validates that Ankistrodsemus sp. is a promising alga for the treatment of uranium-contaminated wastewater.