Sulfate Reduction at pH 4.0 for Treatment of Process and Wastewaters

M.F.M. Bijmans, E. de Vries, C.H. Yang, C.J.N. Buisman, P.N.L. Lens, M. Dopson

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Acidic industrial process and wastewaters often contain high sulfate and metal concentrations and their direct biological treatment is thus far not possible as biological processes at pH <5 have been neglected. Sulfate-reducing bacteria convert sulfate to sulfide that can subsequently be used to recover metals as metal-sulfides precipitate. This study reports on high-rate sulfate reduction with a mixed microbial community at pH 4.0 and 4.5 with hydrogen and/or formate as electron donors. The maximum sulfate reducing activity at pH 4.0 was sustained for over 40 days with a specific activity 500-fold greater than previously reported values: 151 mmol sulfate reduced/L reactor liquid per day with a maximum specific activity of 84 mmol sulfate per gram of volatile suspended solids per day. The biomass yield gradually decreased from 38 to 0.4 g volatile suspended solids per kilogram of sulfate when decreasing the reactor pH from pH 6 to 4. The microorganisms had a high maintenance requirement probably due maintaining pH homeostasis and the toxicity of sulfide at low pH. The microbial community diversity in the pH 4.0 membrane bioreactor decreased over time, while the diversity of the sulfate reducing community increased. Thus, a specialized microbial community containing a lower proportion of microorganisms capable of activity at pH 4 developed in the reactor compared with those present at the start of the experiment. The 16S rRNA genes identified from the pH 4.0 grown mixed culture were most similar to those of Desulfovibrio species and Desulfosporosinus sp. M1. (C) 2010 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 26: 1029-1037, 2010
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1029-1037
JournalBiotechnology Progress
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • acid-mine drainage
  • gradient gel-electrophoresis
  • reducing bacteria
  • anaerobic reactor
  • bioreactor
  • hydrogen
  • sulfide
  • growth
  • water
  • removal


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