Low-frequency electrical response to microbial induced sulfide precipitation

Dimitrios Ntarlagiannis, K.H. Williams, L. Slater, S. Hubbard

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We investigated the sensitivity of low-frequency electrical measurements to microbe-induced metal sulfide precipitation. Three identical sand-packed monitoring columns were used; a geochemical column, an electrical column and a control column. In the first experiment, continuous upward flow of nutrients and metals in solution was established in each column. Cells of Desulfovibrio vulgaris (D. vulgaris) were injected into the center of the geochemical and electrical columns. Geochemical sampling and post-experiment destructive analysis showed that microbial induced sulfate reduction led to metal precipitation on bacteria cells, forming motile biominerals. Precipitation initially occurred in the injection zone, followed by chemotactic migration of D. vulgaris and ultimate accumulation around the nutrient source at the column base. Results from this experiment conducted with metals show (1) polarization anomalies, up to 14 mrad, develop at the bacteria injection and final accumulation areas, (2) the onset of polarization increase occurs concurrently with the onset of lactate consumption, (3) polarization profiles are similar to calculated profiles of the rate of lactate consumption, and (4) temporal changes in polarization and conduction correlate with a geometrical rearrangement of metal-coated bacterial cells. In a second experiment, the same biogeochemical conditions were established except that no metals were added to the flow solution. Polarization anomalies were absent when the experiment was replicated without metals in solution. We therefore attribute the polarization increase observed in the first experiment to a metal-fluid interfacial mechanism that develops as metal sulfides precipitate onto microbial cells and form biominerals. Temporal changes in polarization and conductivity reflect changes in (1) the amount of metal-fluid interfacial area, and (2) the amount of electronic conduction resulting from microbial growth, chemotactic movement and final coagulation. This polarization is correlated with the rate of microbial activity inferred from the lactate concentration gradient, probably via a common total metal surface area effect.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)G02009(1)-G02009(12)
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005


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