Formation of Sphalerite (ZnS) Deposits in Natural Biofilms of Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria

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Science  01 Dec 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5497, pp. 1744-1747
DOI: 10.1126/science.290.5497.1744

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Abundant, micrometer-scale, spherical aggregates of 2- to 5-nanometer-diameter sphalerite (ZnS) particles formed within natural biofilms dominated by relatively aerotolerant sulfate-reducing bacteria of the family Desulfobacteriaceae. The biofilm zinc concentration is about 106 times that of associated groundwater (0.09 to 1.1 parts per million zinc). Sphalerite also concentrates arsenic (0.01 weight %) and selenium (0.004 weight %). The almost monomineralic product results from buffering of sulfide concentrations at low values by sphalerite precipitation. These results show how microbes control metal concentrations in groundwater- and wetland-based remediation systems and suggest biological routes for formation of some low-temperature ZnS deposits.

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