Sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) play a major role in the precipitation of metal sulfides in the environment. In this work, biogenic copper sulfide formation was examined in cultures of SRB and compared to chemically initiated Cu sulfide precipitation as a reference system. Mixed cultures of SRB were incubated at 22, 45, and 60°C in nutrient solutions that contained copper sulfate. Abiotic reference samples were produced by reacting uninoculated liquid media with Na2S solutions under otherwise identical conditions. Precipitates were collected anaerobically by centrifugation, frozen in liquid N2, and freeze-dried, followed by analysis using X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray fluorescence, and scanning electron microscopy. Covellite (CuS) was the only mineral found in the precipitates. Covellite was less crystalline in the biogenic precipitates than in the abiotic samples based on XRD peak widths and peak to background ratios. Poor crystallinity may be the result of slower precipitation rates in bacterial cultures as compared to the abiotic reference systems. Furthermore, bacterial cells may inhibit the nucleation steps that lead to crystal formation. Incubation at elevated temperatures improved the crystallinity of the biotic specimens.
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