Detection of Microbial sulfate-reduction associated with buried stainless steel coupons Page: 2 of 12
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DETECTION OF MICROBIAL SULFATE-REDUCTION ASSOCIATED
WITH BURIED STAINLESS STEEL COUPONS
Mark Delwiche, Alicia Olson, and Kay Adler-Flitton
Idaho National Laboratory
PO Box 1625
Idaho Falls, ID 83415-2202
The objective of this study was to demonstrate applicability of an innovative radioactive
isotope method for imaging microbial activity in geological materials to a comprehensive study
of metal corrosion. The method was tested on a sample of stainless steel coupons that had
been buried as part of a corrosion study initiated in 1970 by the National Bureau of Standards
(now National Institute of Standards and Testing or NIST). The images showed evidence of
microbial activity that could be mapped on a millimeter scale to coupon surfaces. A second
more conventional isotope tracer method was also used to provide a quantitative measure of
the same type of microbial activity in soil proximal to the buried coupons. Together the
techniques offer a method for detecting low metabolic levels of microbial activity that have the
potential for significant cumulative corrosion effects to metals. The methods are particularly
applicable to monitoring steel components that are expected to remain buried and in tact for
very long periods as in nuclear waste storage applications.
Key words: Microbially induced corrosion, microbial sulfate-reduction, buried stainless steel,
nuclear waste storage.
The chemistry of solutions in geological settings is strongly influenced by slow but
persistent action of microbial metabolic activities in the biosphere. These activities are known
to strongly influence metal corrosion'. An understanding of the effect of these solutions on the
integrity of buried metal objects such as pipes, wires, and containers is important for estimation
of their life expectancy. The same solution chemistry has a significant effect on the mobility of
environmental contaminants. Microbial sulfate-reduction readily occurs in organic rich low
oxygen environments where sulfate is available. It can result in significant changes to local
electrochemistry, and it is often associated with metal corrosion in anaerobic environments2.
The net energy yielding respiration reaction is:
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Delwiche, Mark E.; Flitton, M. Kay Adler & Olson, Alicia. Detection of Microbial sulfate-reduction associated with buried stainless steel coupons, article, March 1, 2007; [Idaho Falls, Idaho]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc888535/m1/2/: accessed July 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.