Mineralogy of microbially induced calcium carbonate precipitates formed using single cell drop-based microfluidics

Abstract

Microbe-mineral interactions are ubiquitous and can facilitate major biogeochemical reactions that drive dynamic Earth processes such as rock formation. One example is microbially induced calcium carbonate precipitation (MICP) in which microbial activity leads to the formation of calcium carbonate precipitates. A majority of MICP studies have been conducted at the mesoscale but fundamental questions persist regarding the mechanisms of cell encapsulation and mineral polymorphism. Here, we are the first to investigate and characterize precipitates on the microscale formed by MICP starting from single ureolytic E. coli MJK2 cells in 25 µm diameter drops. Mineral precipitation was observed over time and cells surrounded by calcium carbonate precipitates were observed under hydrated conditions. Using Raman microspectroscopy, amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC) was observed first in the drops, followed by vaterite formation. ACC and vaterite remained stable for up to 4 days, possibly due to the presence of organics. The vaterite precipitates exhibited a dense interior structure with a grainy exterior when examined using electron microscopy. Autofluorescence of these precipitates was observed possibly indicating the development of a calcite phase. The developed approach provides an avenue for future investigations surrounding fundamental processes such as precipitate nucleation on bacteria, microbe-mineral interactions, and polymorph transitions.

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Citation

Zambare, N.M., Naser, N.Y., Gerlach, R. et al. Mineralogy of microbially induced calcium carbonate precipitates formed using single cell drop-based microfluidics. Scientific Reports 10, 17535 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-73870-y
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