Application of microbe-induced carbonate precipitation for copper removal from copper-enriched waters: Challenges to future industrial application

Copper contamination in watercourses is a recent issue in countries where mining operations are prevalent. In this study, the application of copper precipitation through microbe-induced carbonate precipitation (MICP) was analyzed using urea hydrolysis by bacteria to evaluate precipitated copper carbonates. This article demonstrates the application of a copper precipitation assay involving Sporosarcina pasteurii (in 0.5 mM Cu2+ and 333 mM urea) and analyzes the resultant low removal (10%). The analysis indicates that the low removal was a consequence of Cu2+ complexation with the ammonia resulting from the hydrolysis of urea. However, the results indicate that there should be a positive correlation between the initial urea concentration and the bacterial tolerance to copper. This identifies a challenge in the industrial application of the process, wherein a minimum consumption of urea represents an economic advantage. Therefore, it is necessary to design a sequential process that decouples bacterial growth and copper precipitation, thereby decreasing the urea requirement.

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