Geophysical imaging of stimulated microbial biomineralization

K.H. Williams, Dimitrios Ntarlagiannis, L. Slater, A. Dohnalkova, S.S. Hubbard, J.F. Banfield

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    101 Citations (Scopus)


    Understanding how microorganisms influence the physical and chemical properties of the subsurface is hindered by our inability to observe microbial dynamics in real time and with high spatial resolution. Here, we investigate the use of noninvasive geophysical methods to monitor biomineralization at the laboratory scale during stimulated sulfate reduction under dynamic flow conditions. Alterations in sediment characteristics resulting from microbe-mediated sulfide mineral precipitation were concomitant with changes in complex resistivity and acoustic wave propagation signatures. The sequestration of zinc and iron in insoluble sulfides led to alterations in the ability of the pore fluid to conduct electrical charge and of the saturated sediments to dissipate acoustic energy. These changes resulted directly from the nucleation, growth, and development of nanoparticulate precipitates along grain surfaces and within the pore space. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy (SEM and TEM) confirmed the sulfides to be associated with cell surfaces, with precipitates ranging from aggregates of individual 3-5 nm nanocrystals to larger assemblages of up to 10-20 m in diameter. Anomalies in the geophysical data reflected the distribution of mineral precipitates and biomass over space and time, with temporal variations in the signals corresponding to changes in the aggregation state of the nanocrystalline sulfides. These results suggest the potential for using geophysical techniques to image certain subsurface biogeochemical processes, such as those accompanying the bioremediation of metal-contaminated aquifers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7592-7600
    Number of pages9
    JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
    Issue number19
    Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2005

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Environmental Science(all)
    • Environmental Chemistry
    • Environmental Engineering


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