Description: While electricity is a clean source of energy, methods of electricity-production, such as the use of coal-fired power plants, often result in significant environmental damage. Coal-fired electrical power plants produce air pollution, while contaminating ground water and soils by build-up of boron, which enters surrounding areas through leachate. Increasingly high levels of boron in soils eventually overcome boron tolerance levels in plants and trees, resulting in toxicity. Formation of insoluble boron precipitates, mediated by mineral-precipitating bacteria, may sequester boron into more stable forms that are less available and toxic to vegetation. Results have provided evidence of microbially-facilitated sequestration of boron into insoluble mineral precipitates. Analyses of water samples taken from ponds with high boron concentrations showed that algae present contained 3-5 times more boron than contained in the water in the samples. Boron sequestration may also be facilitated by the incorporation of boron within algal cells. Experiments examining boron sequestration by algae are in progress. In bacterial experiments with added ferric citrate, the reduction of iron by the bacteria resulted in an ironcarbonate precipitate containing boron. An apparent color change showing the reduction of amorphous iron, as well as the precipitation of boron with iron, was more favorable at higher pH. Analysis of precipitates by X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, and inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy revealed mineralogical composition and biologicallymediated accumulation of boron precipitates in test-tube experiments.
Date: January 1, 2002
Creator: Hazen, T. & Phelps, T.J.
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