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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Induced polarization response of microbial induced sulfide precipitation


A laboratory scale experiment was conducted to examine the use of induced polarization and electrical conductivity to monitor microbial induced sulfide precipitation under anaerobic conditions in sand filled columns. Three columns were fabricated; one for electrical measurements, one for geochemical sampling and a third non-inoculated column was used as a control. A continual upward flow of nutrients and metals in solution was established in each column. Desulfovibrio vulgaris microbes were injected into the middle of the geochemical and electrical columns. Iron and zinc sulfides precipitated along a microbial action front as a result of sulfate reduction due by Desulfovibrio vulgaris. The precipitation front initially developed near the microbial injection location, and subsequently migrated towards the nutrient inlet, as a result of chemotaxis by Desulfovibrio vulgaris. Sampling during and subsequent to the experiment revealed spatiotemporal changes in the biogeochemical measurements associated with microbial sulfate reduction. Conductivity measurements were insensitive to all biogeochemical changes occurred within the column. Changes in the IP response (of up to 14 mrad) were observed to coincide in place and in time with the active microbe respiration/sulfide precipitation front as determined from geochemical sampling. The IP response is correlated with the lactate concentration gradient, an indirect measurement of microbial metabolism, suggesting the potential of IP as a method for monitoring microbial respiration/activity. Post experimental destructive sample analysis and SEM imaging verified the geochemical results and supported our hypothesis that microbe induced sulfide precipitation is directly detectable using electrical methods. Although the processes not fully understood, the IP response appears to be sensitive to this anaerobic microbial precipitation, suggesting a possible novel application for the IP method.

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