Highly reactive nano-scale biogenic magnetite (BnM), synthesized by the Fe(III)-reducing bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens, was tested for the potential to remediate alkaline Cr(VI) contaminated waters associated with chromite ore processing residue (COPR). The performance of this biomaterial, targeting aqueous Cr(VI) removal, was compared to a synthetic alternative, nano-scale zero valent iron (nZVI). Samples of highly contaminated alkaline groundwater and COPR solid waste were obtained from a contaminated site in Glasgow, UK. During batch reactivity tests, Cr(VI) removal from groundwater was inhibited by ~25% (BnM) and ~50% (nZVI) when compared to the treatment of less chemically complex model pH 12 Cr(VI) solutions. In both the model Cr(VI) solutions and contaminated groundwater experiments the surface of the nanoparticles became passivated, preventing complete coupling of their available electrons to Cr(VI) reduction. To investigate this process, the surfaces of the reacted samples were analyzed by TEM-EDX, XAS and XPS, confirming Cr(VI) reduction to the less soluble Cr(III) on the nanoparticle surface. In groundwater reacted samples the presence of Ca, Si and S was also noted on the surface of the nanoparticles, and is likely responsible for earlier onset of passivation. Treatment of the solid COPR material in contact with water, by addition of increasing weight % of the nanoparticles, resulted in a decrease in aqueous Cr(VI) concentrations to below detection limits, via the addition of ≥5% w/w BnM or ≥1% w/w nZVI. XANES analysis of the Cr K edge, showed that the % Cr(VI) in the COPR dropped from 26% to a minimum of 4-7% by the addition of 5% w/w BnM or 2% w/w nZVI, with higher additions unable to reduce the remaining Cr(VI). The treated materials exhibited minimal re-mobilization of soluble Cr(VI) by re-equilibration with atmospheric oxygen, with the bulk of the Cr remaining in the solid fraction. Both nanoparticles exhibited a considerable capacity for the remediation of COPR related Cr(VI) contamination, with the synthetic nZVI demonstrating greater reactivity than the BnM. However, the biosynthesized BnM was also capable of significant Cr(VI) reduction and demonstrated a greater efficiency for the coupling of its electrons towards Cr(VI) reduction than the nZVI.
- biogenic magnetite (BnM)
- contaminated groundwater