Adsorption of Cu(II) to Bacillus subtilis: a pH-dependent EXAFS and thermodynamic modelling study

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Moon, EM & Peacock, CL 2011, 'Adsorption of Cu(II) to Bacillus subtilis: a pH-dependent EXAFS and thermodynamic modelling study', Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, vol. 75, no. 21, pp. 6705-6719.

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Bacteria are very efficient sorbents of trace metals, and their abundance in a wide variety of natural aqueous systems means biosorption plays an important role in the biogeochemical cycling of many elements. We measured the adsorption of Cu(II) to Bacillus subtilis as a function of pH and surface loading. Adsorption edge and XAS experiments were performed at high bacteria-to-metal ratio, analogous to Cu uptake in natural geologic and aqueous environments. We report significant Cu adsorption to B. subtilis across the entire pH range studied (pH ∼2–7), with adsorption increasing with pH to a maximum at pH ∼6. We determine directly for the first time that Cu adsorbs to B. subtilis as a (CuO5Hn)n−8monodentate, inner-sphere surface complex involving carboxyl surface functional groups. This Cu–carboxyl complex is able to account for the observed Cu adsorption across the entire pH range studied. Having determined the molecular adsorption mechanism of Cu to B. subtilis, we have developed a new thermodynamic surface complexation model for Cu adsorption that is informed by and consistent with EXAFS results. We model the surface electrostatics using the 1pK basic Stern approximation. We fit our adsorption data to the formation of a monodentate, inner-sphere RCOOCu+ surface complex. In agreement with previous studies, this work indicates that in order to accurately predict the fate and mobility of Cu in complex biogeochemical systems, we must incorporate the formation of Cu-bacteria surface complexes in reactive transport models. To this end, this work recommends log K RCOOCu+ = 7.13 for geologic and aqueous systems with generally high B. subtilis-to-metal ratio.

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