A research team at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) has managed to purify water containing uranium using a special kind of bacteria known as magnetotactic bacteria.
In a paper published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, the scientists explain that the name of the bacteria derives from their ability to react to magnetic fields. They can accumulate dissolved heavy metals in their cell walls. These research findings also shed new light on the interaction between uranium and bioligands.
“Our experiments are geared towards potential industrial applications in the field of microbiological remediation of water, especially when it is contaminated with heavy metals of the type you find in mine drainage water in the old uranium mines,” Evelyn Krawczyk-Bärsch, lead author of the study, said in a media statement.
Krawczyk-Bärsch explained that because they exhibit a feature that differentiates them from other bacteria, magnetotactic bacteria form nanoscopic magnetic crystals within the cell. They are arranged like a row of beads and so perfectly formed that humans would currently be unable to reproduce them synthetically. Each individual magnetic crystal is embedded in a protective membrane.
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