Supervisor: Prof Geoffrey Gadd
Internal examiner: Prof Paul Birch
External examiner: Prof Nicholas Clipson (University College Dublin)
Biomineralization is the process of forming minerals by organisms and the final complex materials may contain both minerals and organic components. The process has been investigated as a promising strategy for metal removal and biorecovery from polluted wastewaters and leachates, or for in situ metal immobilization in soils. In this research, ureolytic fungal-mediated systems were used to mediate metal carbonate biomineralization to provide more understanding of its environmental importance and potential in novel biomaterial synthesis, and in metal bioremediation or biorecovery. A variety of metal carbonates can be made, including those of Ca, Cd, Sr and Mn, with many exhibiting nanoscale dimensions. Findings include the first report of fungal biomineralization of Sr-containing olekminskite and coprecipitation of Sr with Ca into vaterite, as well as the first application of fungal-derived MnOx from MnCO3 biomineralization as an electrode material in lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors. These findings suggest that urease-positive fungi could play an important role in the environmental fate, bioremediation or biorecovery of metals and radionuclides that form insoluble carbonates and provide strategies for the preparation of novel biomineral products.