The ureolytic activity of Neurospora crassa results in an alkaline carbonate-rich culture medium which can precipitate soluble metals as insoluble carbonates. Such carbonates are smaller, often of nanoscale dimensions, than metal carbonates synthesized abiotically which infers that fungal excreted products can markedly affect particle size. In this work, it was found that amino acid excretion was a significant factor in affecting the particle size of copper carbonate. Eleven different amino acids were found to be secreted by Neurospora crassa, and L-glutamic acid, L-aspartic acid and L-cysteine were chosen to examine the impact of amino acids on the morphology and chemical composition of copper carbonate minerals. X-ray powder diffraction (XRPD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) were used to characterize the obtained copper carbonate samples. Copper carbonate nanoparticles with a diameter of 100–200 nm were produced with L-glutamic acid, and the presence of L-glutamic acid was found to stabilize these particles in the early phase of crystal growth and prevent them from aggregation. FTIR and TG analysis revealed that the amino acid moieties were intimately associated with the copper mineral particles. Component analysis of the final products of TG analysis of the copper minerals synthesized under various conditions showed the ultimate formation of Cu, Cu2O and Cu2S, suggesting a novel synthesis method for producing these useful Cu-containing materials.
- Amino acids
- Copper carbonate