Uranyl precipitation by biomass from an enhanced biological phosphorus removal reactor

Biodegradation. 2001;12(6):401-10. doi: 10.1023/a:1015018104682.


Heavy metal and radionuclide contamination presents a significant environmental problem worldwide. Precipitation of heavy metals on membranes of cells that secrete phosphate has been shown to be an effective method of reducing the volume of these wastes, thus reducing the cost of disposal. A consortium of organisms, some of which secrete large quantities of phosphate, was enriched in a laboratory-scale sequencing batch reactor performing Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal, a treatment process widely used for removing phosphorus. Organisms collected after the aerobic phase of this process secreted phosphate and precipitated greater than 98% of the uranyl from a 1.5 mM uranyl nitrate solution when supplemented with an organic acid as a carbon source under anaerobic conditions. Transmission electron microscopy, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and fluorescence spectroscopy were used to identify the precipitate as membrane-associated uranyl phosphate, UO2HPO4.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomass
  • Bioreactors*
  • Chemical Precipitation
  • Phosphorus / isolation & purification*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence / methods
  • Uranium / chemistry*


  • Phosphorus
  • Uranium