Copper removal using a heavy-metal resistant microbial consortium in a fixed-bed reactor

Water Res. 2014 Oct 1:62:156-66. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2014.05.043. Epub 2014 Jun 4.


A heavy-metal resistant bacterial consortium was obtained from a contaminated river in São Paulo, Brazil and utilized for the design of a fixed-bed column for the removal of copper. Prior to the design of the fixed-bed bioreactor, the copper removal capacity by the live consortium and the effects of copper in the consortium biofilm formation were investigated. The Langmuir model indicated that the sorption capacity of the consortium for copper was 450.0 mg/g dry cells. The biosorption of copper into the microbial biomass was attributed to carboxyl and hydroxyl groups present in the microbial biomass. The effect of copper in planktonic cells to form biofilm under copper rich conditions was investigated with confocal microscopy. The results revealed that biofilm formed after 72 h exposure to copper presented a reduced thickness by 57% when compared to the control; however 84% of the total cells were still alive. The fixed-bed bioreactor was set up by growing the consortium biofilm on granular activated carbon (GAC) and analyzed for copper removal. The biofilm-GAC (BGAC) column retained 45% of the copper mass present in the influent, as opposed to 17% in the control column that contained GAC only. These findings suggest that native microbial communities in sites contaminated with heavy metals can be immobilized in fixed-bed bioreactors and used to treat metal contaminated water.

Keywords: Bacterial; Biofilm; Biosorption; Copper; Metal; Microbial consortia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / ultrastructure
  • Biodegradation, Environmental / drug effects
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Bioreactors / microbiology*
  • Brazil
  • Charcoal / pharmacology
  • Copper / isolation & purification*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • Microbial Consortia* / drug effects
  • Spectrometry, X-Ray Emission
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared
  • Temperature


  • Charcoal
  • Copper