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Metal binding properties of extracellular polymeric substances extracted from anaerobic granular sludges


Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) were extracted from four anaerobic granular sludges with different procedures to study their involvement in biosorption of metallic elements. EPS extracts are composed of closely associated organic and mineral fractions. The EPS macromolecules (proteins, polysaccharides, humic-like substances, nucleic, and uronic acids) have functional groups potentially available for the binding of metallic elements. The acidic constants of these ionizable groups are: pK a1 (4–5) corresponding to the carboxyl groups; pK a2 (6–7) corresponding to the phosphoric groups; pK a3 (8–10) and pK a4 (≈10) corresponding to the phenolic, hydroxyl, and amino groups. The polarographic study confirms the higher affinity of the EPS to bind to lead than to cadmium. Moreover, the binding of these metallic compounds with the EPS is a mix of several sorption mechanisms including surface complexation, ion exchange, and flocculation. Inorganic elements were found as ions linked to organic molecules or as solid particles. The mineral fraction affects the binding properties of the EPS, as the presence of salts decreases the EPS binding ability. Calcite and apatite particles observed on SEM images of EPS extracts can also sorb metallic elements through ion exchange or surface complexation.

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This study was supported by a research grant provided by the Conseil Regional du Limousin.

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Correspondence to Gilles Guibaud.

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Submitted to Environmental Science and Pollution Research, ESPR-D-12-00929

Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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d’Abzac, P., Bordas, F., Joussein, E. et al. Metal binding properties of extracellular polymeric substances extracted from anaerobic granular sludges. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 4509–4519 (2013).

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  • Anaerobic granular sludge
  • Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS)
  • EPS characterization
  • Acidic constant
  • Metal sorption