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Magnetic bacteria: Microorganisms can help to extract dangerous heavy metals from wastewater

Date: 10.5.2023 

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. The name derives from their ability to react to magnetic fields.

Kredit: B. Schröder/HZDR.They can accumulate dissolved heavy metal 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," explains Dr. Evelyn Krawczyk-Bärsch of HZDR's Institute of Resource Ecology.

"For this project we sought help from a very special group of living creatures: the magnetotactic bacteria," her colleague, Dr. Johannes Raff, adds and continues, "Due to their structure, they are positively predestined for such a task."

Magnetotactic bacteria can be found in almost any aqueous environment from fresh water to saltwater, including environments with very few nutrients. Microbiologist Dr. Christopher Lef?vre has even discovered them in the hot springs of Nevada. It was from him and his colleague Dr. Damien Faivre of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) that the Rossendorf scientists acquired their bacteria strain.

Image source: B. Schröder/HZDR.





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