Precipitation of phosphate minerals by microorganisms isolated from a fixed-biofilm reactor used for the treatment of domestic wastewater

Almudena Rivadeneyra, Alejandro Gonzalez-Martinez*, Jesus Gonzalez-Lopez, Daniel Martin-Ramos, Maria Victoria Martinez-Toledo, Maria Angustias Rivadeneyra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The ability of bacteria isolated from a fixed-film bioreactor to precipitate phosphate crystals for the treatment of domestic wastewater in both artificial and natural media was studied. When this was demonstrated in artificial solid media for crystal formation, precipitation took place rapidly, and crystal formation began 3 days after inoculation. The percentage of phosphate-forming bacteria was slightly higher than 75%. Twelve major colonies with phosphate precipitation capacity were the dominant heterotrophic platable bacteria growing aerobically in artificial media. According to their taxonomic affiliations (based on partial sequencing of the 16S rRNA), the 12 strains belonged to the following genera of Gram-negative bacteria: Rhodobacter, Pseudoxanthobacter, Escherichia, Alcaligenes, Roseobacter, Ochrobactrum, Agromyce, Sphingomonas and Paracoccus. The phylogenetic tree shows that most of the identified populations were evolutionarily related to the Alphaproteobacteria (91.66% of sequences). The minerals formed were studied by X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis (EDX). All of these strains formed phosphate crystals and precipitated struvite (MgNH4PO4·6H2O), bobierrite [Mg3(PO4)2·8H2O] and baricite [(MgFe)3(PO4)2·8H2O]. The results obtained in this study show that struvite and spherulite crystals did not show any cell marks. Moreover, phosphate precipitation was observed in the bacterial mass but also near the colonies. Our results suggest that the microbial population contributed to phosphate precipitation by changing the media as a consequence of their metabolic activity. Moreover, the results of this research suggest that bacteria play an active role in the mineral precipitation of soluble phosphate from urban wastewater in submerged fixed-film bioreactors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3689-3704
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Baricite
  • Bobierrite
  • Phosphate precipitation
  • Spherulites
  • Struvite
  • Submerged fixed-film bioreactor
  • Urban wastewater


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