Intermediary sulfur compounds in pyrite oxidation: implications for bioleaching and biodepyritization of coal
Accumulation of elemental sulfur during pyrite oxidation lowers the efficiency of coal desulfurization and bioleaching. In the case of pyrite bioleaching by Leptospirillum ferrooxidans, an iron(II)-ion-oxidizing organism without sulfur-oxidizing capacity, from the pyritic sulfur moiety about 10% elemental sulfur, 2% pentathionate, and 1% tetrathionate accumulated by a recently described cyclic pyrite oxidation mechanism. In the case of pure cultures of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans and mixed cultures of L. ferrooxidans and T. thiooxidans, pyrite was nearly completely oxidized to sulfate because of the capacity of these cultures to oxidize both iron(II) ions and sulfur compounds. Pyrite oxidation in acidic solutions, mediated chemically by iron(III) ion, resulted in an accumulation of similar amounts of sulfur compounds as obtained with L. ferrooxidans. Changes of pH to values below 2 or in the iron ion concentration are not decisive for diverting the flux of sulfur compounds. The literature on pyrite bioleaching is in agreement with the findings indicating that the chemistry of direct and indirect pyrite leaching is identical.
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