Biomineralization of Heavy Metals Within Fungal Mycelia A New Technology for Bioremediation of Hazardous Wastes

EPA Grant Number: R823341
Title: Biomineralization of Heavy Metals Within Fungal Mycelia A New Technology for Bioremediation of Hazardous Wastes
Investigators: Crusberg, Theodore C.
Institution: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: October 1, 1995 through September 1, 1998
Project Amount: $296,053
RFA: Exploratory Research - Engineering (1995) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Engineering and Environmental Chemistry , Land and Waste Management


The long term goal of this research is to develop a new technology using an innovative fungal BIOTRAP known to accumulate copper within its mycelia through biologically-mediated precipitation (biomineralization), for removal and recovery of heavy metal ions from wastewaters. This research will focus on studies which together will accomplish the goals of the project by: (1) investigating the thermodynamics of heavy metal biomineralization within mycelia beads of the fungus Penicillium ochro-chloron BIOTRAP [using Cu++, Ni++, Pb++, and Cd++] at pH values from 2 - 5 and in the presence of competing ions and chelators [these metals are listed in 40CFR Part 433], (2) determining the composition of precipitates within the mycelia of the BIOTRAP, by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive X-Ray (EDX) analysis, (3) measuring intrabead physiology (pH, and oxygen consumption) correlating cell viability in the core of the bead with the efficiency of the biomineralization process, (4) studying periplasmic phosphatase activities in order to determine if levels of enzyme correlate with efficiency of the biomineralization process, (5) demonstrating the feasibility, with a bench-scale model system, that this type of biomineralization process could be developed into a technology to aid in the removal and recovery of heavy metals from wastewaters, and (6) developing a mathematical predictive model to describe the bench-scale separation system for heavy metal removal and retrieval from various wastewaters. Currently, metal recovery processes are based on physical and chemical processes and are capital intensive and require constant vigilance and maintenance. They are expensive to purchase and operate, and often produce sludges or precipitates which themselves are subject to disposal and further regulation and costs. Direct retrieval of metal ions from industrial waste streams could substantially reduce disposal costs and have additional environmental and political benefits. The development of a less expensive technology to meet the current federal discharge limits would provide great economic benefit to industry, governmental agencies and consumer alike. A renewable fungal BIOTRAP for removal and recovery of heavy metals found in electroplating and other forms of industrial wastewaters provides an innovative application of biotechnology in solving a pressing environmental problem.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 8 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

scanning electron microscopy, SEM, energry dirspersive X-ray analysis,EDX, feasibility, demonstration, waste management, hazardous wastes, innovative technology, biomineralization, heavy metals, bioremediation, fungal mycelia, BIOTRAP, industrial wastewater, thermodynamics, metal recovery process, predictive model., Scientific Discipline, Waste, Hydrology, Environmental Chemistry, Physics, Chemistry, Bioremediation, Engineering, fate and transport, electron microscope, periplasmic phosphate activities, biomineralization of heavy metals, industrial wastewater, biodegradation, chelators, fungal mycelia, chemical transport, biotrap, biotechnology, environmental engineering, hazardous waste cleanup, copper, contaminant release, mathematical models, heavy metals

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1996
  • 1997
  • Final Report