Monitoring microbial sulfate reduction in porous media using multi-purpose electrodes

Chi Zhang, Dimitrios Ntarlagiannis, Lee Slater, Rory Doherty

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    There is growing interest in the application of electrode-based measurements for monitoring microbial processes in the Earth using biogeophysical methods. In this study, reactive electrode measurements were combined to electrical geophysical measurements during microbial sulfate reduction occurring in a column of silica beads saturated with natural river water. Electrodic potential (EP), self potential (SP) and complex conductivity signals were recorded using a dual electrode design (Ag/AgCl metal as sensing/EP electrode, Ag/AgCl metal in KCl gel as reference/SP electrode). Open-circuit potentials, representing the tendency for electrochemical reactions to occur on the electrode surfaces, were recorded between sensing/EP electrode and reference/SP electrode and showed significant spatiotemporal variability associated with microbial activity. The dual electrode design isolates the microbial driven sulfide reactions to the sensing electrode and permits removal of any SP signal from the EP measurement. Based on the known sensitivity of a Ag electrode to dissolved sulfide, we interpret EP signals exceeding 550 mV recorded in this experiment in terms of bisulfide (HS-) concentration near multiple sensing electrodes. Complex conductivity measurements capture an imaginary conductivity (s?) signal interpreted as the response of microbial growth and biomass formation in the column. Our results suggest that the implementation of multipurpose electrodes, combining reactive measurements with electrical geophysical measurements, could improve efforts to monitor microbial processes in the Earth using electrodes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberG00G09
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
    Issue numberG3
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010


    • Self Potential, induced polarization, monitoring microbial activity, geophysics


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