U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) Supported Research on Microbe-Metal Interactions is Published in Science:
Published: December 14, 2000
Posted: August 03, 2001

Research on the formation of zinc sulfides by biofilms of sulfate reducing bacteria was published in the December 1, 2000, issue of the journal, Science, and featured on the cover photo. Contributing to this article was Dr. Kenneth Kemner, a researcher in the NABIR program and winner of a Presidential Young Investigator Award. Working at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, Kemner used a finely focused high-energy X-ray beam to document that zinc sulfides as well as small quantities of other toxic ions, arsenic and selenium, were extracted from groundwater and concentrated in naturally occurring biofilms. The biofilms, found deep in an abandoned mine, are heavily populated with bacteria which convert zinc and sulfate (or sulfuric acid) from groundwater into insoluble zinc sulfides. The interdisciplinary research team was led by Dr. Jill Banfield, a geomicrobiologist at the University of Wisconsin. The results of this study show how microbes can reduce metal concentrations in groundwater and suggest microbially mediated routes for the formation of some low temperature ore deposits of zinc sulfides. Understanding such microbe-metal interactions is critical to developing new methods to remediate Department of Energy sites contaminated with metals and radionuclides.

Contact: Anna Palmisano, SC-74, 3-9963
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Subsurface Biogeochemical Research
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Structural Biology Infrastructure

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-74 Environmental Sciences Division, OBER)


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