The residual algal-bacterial biomass from photosynthetically supported, organic pollutant biodegradation processes, in enclosed photobioreactors, was tested for its ability to accumulate Cu(II), Ni(II), Cd(II), and Zn(II). Salicylate was chosen as a model contaminant. The algal-bacterial biomass combined the high adsorption capacity of microalgae with the low cost of the residual biomass, which makes it an attractive biosorbent for environmental applications. Cu(II) was preferentially taken-up from the medium when the metals were present both separately and in combination. There was no observed competition for adsorption sites, which suggested that Cu(II), Ni(II), Cd(II), and Zn(II) bind to different sites and that active Ni(II), Cd(II) and Zn(II) binding groups were present at very low concentrations. Therefore, special focus was given to Cu(II) biosorption. Cu(II) biosorption by the algal-bacterial biomass was characterized by an initial fast cell surface adsorption followed by a slower metabolically driven uptake. pH, Cu(II), and algal-bacterial concentration significantly affected the biosorption capacity for Cu(II). Maximum Cu(II) adsorption capacities of 8.5 ± 0.4 mg g-1 were achieved at an initial Cu(II) concentration of 20 mg l-1 and at pH 5 for the tested algal-bacterial biomass. These are consistent with values reported for other microbial sorbents under similar conditions. The desorption of Cu(II) from saturated biomass was feasible by elution with a 0.0125 M HCl solution. Simultaneous Cu(II) and salicylate removal in a continuous stirred tank photobioreactor was not feasible due to the high toxicity of Cu(II) towards the microbial culture. The introduction of an adsorption column, packed with the algal-bacterial biomass, prior to the photobioreactor reduced Cu(II) concentration, thereby allowing the subsequent salicylate biodegradation in the photobioreactor.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by SIDA (The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency). Mrs. Britt Marie Pott is also gratefully acknowledged for her practical assistance.
- Algal-bacterial symbiosis
- Heavy metals