Biogenic Mn oxides are reactive and ubiquitous in many Earth surface environments, yet their role in radionuclide sequestration at U mill-tailings sites still require an improved understanding at the nano- and molecular-scales. This study concerns the uptake of Ba, utilized as a safe and chemically appropriate surrogate for radioactive Ra, by biogenic Mn oxides produced by a fungal species, Coprinopsis urticicola, isolated from the mine water of the Ningyo-toge U mine, Okayama, Japan. The biogenic Mn oxides were identified as birnessite nanocrystals <10 nm in width having many vacancy sites in the MnO6 octahedral layers. Ba2+ adsorption experiments using biogenic birnessite were conducted at pH 6.00 ± 0.02 with the initial Ba concentrations ranging from 10–8 to 10–3 mol/L. The apparent distribution coefficient, Kd, was calculated to be 103.8 L/g for biogenic birnessite, which is comparable to the apparent Kd of Ra in the mill tailings pond at Ningyo-toge. Both in adsorption and coprecipitation experiments, extended X-ray absorption fine edge structure analysis of Ba L3 edge revealed that the Ba atom forms an inner-sphere complex with O atoms of the MnO6 layer. A slightly greater coordination number for coprecipitated Ba may be attributed to the formation of Ba[sbnd]O binding to the newly overlying MnO6 layer during coprecipitation. Static desorption experiments for 7 days reveal that the steady-state release rate of adsorbed Ba is ∼1.4 times faster than that of the coprecipitated Ba, when the Ba concentration in the initial loading solution was ∼10–8 mol/L, indicating that the release of intercalated (coprecipitation) Ba to solution is retarded. The present study demonstrates the importance of fungus-generated Mn oxides as an efficient absorber of Ba2+, and likely Ra2+, among soil compounds in U mill-tailings. This may be applicable to other contaminated sites due to the ubiquitous occurrence of fungi in the environment.
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