In this study, we have investigated the post-adsorption process of ytterbium (Yb) phosphate nano-particle formation by Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast). The yeast grown in P-rich medium were exposed to 1.44×10-4 mol/L Yb(III) solution for 2-120 h, and 2 months at 25 ± 1 °C at an initial pH of 3, 4, or 5, respectively. Ytterbium concentrations in solutions decreased as a function of exposure time. Field-emission scanning electron microscopy equipped with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (FESEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and synchrotron-based extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) analyses revealed that nano-sized blocky Yb phosphate with an amorphous phase formed on the yeast cells surfaces in the solutions with Yb. These nano-sized precipitates that formed on the cell surfaces remained stable even after 2 months of exposure at 25 ± 1 °C around neutral pHs. The EXAFS data revealed that the chemical state of the accumulated Yb on the cell surfaces changed from the adsorption on both phosphate and carboxyl sites at 30 min to Yb phosphate precipitates at 5 days, indicating the Yb-phosphate precipitation as a major post-adsorption process. In addition, the precipitation of Yb phosphate occurred on cell surfaces during 7 days of exposure in Yb-free solution after 2 h of exposure (short-term Yb adsorption) in Yb solution. These results suggest that the released P from the inside of yeast cells reacted with adsorbed Yb on cell surfaces, resulting in the formation of Yb precipitates, even though no P was added to the exposure solution. In an abiotic system, the EXAFS data showed that the speciation of sorbed Yb on the reference materials, carboxymethyl cellulose and Ln resin, did not change even when the Yb was exposed to P solution, without forming Yb phosphate precipitates. This result strongly suggests that the cell surface of the yeast plays an important role in the Yb-phosphate precipitation process, not only as a carrier of the functional groups but also as a substrate inducing the nucleation of phosphate nanoparticles. Stable nano-sized Yb phosphate precipitates formed on yeast cell surfaces in the present study, which implies that this postadsorption nano-particle formation process caused by microbial cells should be one of the important processes governing the long-term migration of heavy rare earth elements and presumably trivalent actinides in geological repository.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology