The increasing demand and limited natural resources for industrially important platinum-group metal (PGM) catalysts render the recovery from secondary sources such as industrial waste economically interesting. In the process of palladium (Pd) recovery, microorganisms have revealed a strong potential. Hitherto, bacteria with the property of dissimilatory metal reduction have been in focus, although the biochemical reactions linking enzymatic Pd(II) reduction and Pd(0) deposition have not yet been identified. In this study we investigated Pd(II) reduction with formate as the electron donor in the presence of Gram-negative bacteria with no documented capacity for reducing metals for energy production: Cupriavidus necator, Pseudomonas putida, and Paracoccus denitrificans. Only large and close-packed Pd(0) aggregates were formed in cell-free buffer solutions. Pd(II) reduction in the presence of bacteria resulted in smaller, well-suspended Pd(0) particles that were associated with the cells (called “bioPd(0)” in the following). Nanosize Pd(0) particles (3–30 nm) were only observed in the presence of bacteria, and particles in this size range were located in the periplasmic space. Pd(0) nanoparticles were still deposited on autoclaved cells of C. necator that had no hydrogenase activity, suggesting a hydrogenase-independent formation mechanism. The catalytic properties of Pd(0) and bioPd(0) were determined by the amount of hydrogen released in a reaction with hypophosphite. Generally, bioPd(0) demonstrated a lower level of activity than the Pd(0) control, possibly due to the inaccessibility of the Pd(0) fraction embedded in the cell envelope. Our results demonstrate the suitability of bacterial cells for the recovery of Pd(0), and formation and immobilization of Pd(0) nanoparticles inside the cell envelope. However, procedures to make periplasmic Pd(0) catalytically accessible need to be developed for future nanobiotechnological applications. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2010;107: 206–215. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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