Cyanobacteria are promising biosorbent for heavy metals in bioremediation. Although sequestration of metals by cyanobacteria is known, the actual mechanisms and ligands involved are not very well understood. The binding characteristics of Cu(II) and Cd(II) by the cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis were investigated using a combination of chemical modifications, batch adsorption experiments, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) spectroscopy. A significant increase in Cu(II) and Cd(II) binding was observed in the range of pH 3.5-5.0. Dramatical decrease in adsorption of Cu(II) and Cd(II) was observed after methanol esterification of the nonliving cells demonstrating that carboxyl functional groups play an important role in the binding of metals by S. platensis. The desorption rate of Cu(II) and Cd(II) from S. platensis surface was 72.7-80.7% and 53.7-58.0% by EDTA and NH(4)NO(3), respectively, indicating that ion exchange and complexation are the dominating mechanisms for Cu(II) and Cd(II) adsorption. XAFS analysis provided further evidence on the inner-sphere complexation of Cu by carboxyl ligands and showed that Cu is complexed by two 5-membered chelate rings on S. platensis surface.
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