Immobilisation of nanoparticles by occlusion into microbial calcite

Skuce, Rebecca L. and Tobler, Dominique J. and MacLaren, Ian and Lee, Martin R. and Phoenix, Vernon R. (2017) Immobilisation of nanoparticles by occlusion into microbial calcite. Chemical Geology, 453. pp. 72-79. ISSN 0009-2541 (

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Binding of nanoparticles (NPs) to mineral surfaces influences their transport through the environment. The potential, however, for growing minerals to immobilize NPs via occlusion (the process of trapping particles inside the growing mineral) has yet to be explored in environmentally relevant systems. In this study, the ureolytic bacteria Sporosarcina pasteurii was used to induce calcium carbonate precipitation in the presence of organo-metallic manufactured nanoparticles. As calcite crystals grew the nanoparticles in the solution became trapped inside these crystals. Capture of NPs within the calcite via occlusion was verified by transmission electron microscopy of thin foils. Nanoparticles with a negative surface charge were captured with greater efficiency than those with a positive surface charge, resulting from stronger attachment of negative nanoparticles to the positively charged calcite surfaces, which in turn facilitated occlusion. Thermodynamic and kinetic analysis, however, did not reveal a significant difference in kp (calcite precipitation rate constant) or the critical saturation at which precipitation initiates (Scrit), indicating the presence of different charged nanoparticles did not influence calcite precipitation at the concentrations used here. Overall, these findings demonstrate that microbially driven mineral precipitation has potential to immobilize nanoparticles in the environment via occlusion.


Skuce, Rebecca L., Tobler, Dominique J., MacLaren, Ian, Lee, Martin R. and Phoenix, Vernon R. ORCID logoORCID:;