The ability of algae and bacteria to accumulate heavy metals from the surrounding environment is a widely recognized phenomenon that has a number of important implications. This work reports on the development of a quantitative model that addresses the basic mechanisms inherent in many uptake processes. The model postulates two mechanisms: an initial rapid metal ion uptake due to attachment onto the cell wall followed by a relatively slow uptake due to membrane transport of the metal into the cell. The mathematical model has been tested using the alga Chlorella vulgaris in the presence of cadmium and zinc in solution under various experimental conditions.