Colonization and bioweathering of monazite by Aspergillus niger: solubilization and precipitation of rare earth elements

Xia Kang, Laszlo Csetenyi, Geoffrey Michael Gadd (Lead / Corresponding author)

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Abstract

Geoactive fungi play a significant role in bioweathering of rock and mineral substrates. Monazite is a phosphate mineral containing the rare earth elements (REE) cerium, lanthanum and neodymium. Little is known about geomicrobial transformations of REE-bearing minerals which are also relevant to REE biorecovery from terrestrial and extra-terrestrial reserves. The geoactive soil fungus Aspergillus niger colonized monazite in solid and liquid growth media without any apparent growth inhibition. In a glucose-minerals salts medium, monazite enhanced growth and mycelium extensively covered rock particle surfaces, probably due to the provision of phosphate and essential trace metals. Teeth-like and pagoda-like etching patterns indicated monazite dissolution, with extensive precipitation of secondary oxalate minerals. Biomechanical forces ensued causing aggressive bioweathering effects by tunnelling, penetration and splitting of the ore particles. High amounts of oxalic acid (~46 mM) and moderate amounts of citric acid (~5 mM) were produced in liquid media containing 2% (wt./vol.) monazite, and REE and phosphate were released. Correlation analysis suggested that citric acid was more effective than oxalic acid in REE mobilization, although the higher concentration of oxalic acid also implied complexant activity, as well as the prime role in REE-oxalate precipitation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Early online date18 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jan 2021

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