Iron oxide nanoparticles in geomicrobiology: From biogeochemistry to bioremediation

Juliane Braunschweig, Julian Bosch, Rainer U. Meckenstock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Iron oxides are important constituents of soils and sediments and microbial iron reduction is considered to be a significant anaerobic respiration process in the subsurface, however low microbial reduction rates of macroparticulate Fe oxides in laboratory studies led to an underestimation of the role of Fe oxides in the global Fe redox cycle. Recent studies show the high potential of nano-sized Fe oxides in the environment as, for example, electron acceptor for microbial respiration, electron shuttle between different microorganisms, and scavenger for heavy metals. Biotic and abiotic reactivity of iron macroparticles differ significantly from nano-sized Fe oxides, which are usually much more reactive. Factors such as particle size, solubility, ferrous iron, crystal structure, and organic molecules were identified to influence the reactivity.This review discusses factors influencing the microbial reactivity of Fe oxides. It highlights the differences between natural and synthetic Fe oxides especially regarding the presence of organic molecules such as humic acids and natural organic matter. Attention is given to the transport behavior of Fe oxides in laboratory systems and in the environment, because of the high affinity of different contaminants to Fe oxide surfaces and associated co-transport of pollutants. The high reactivity of Fe oxides and their potential as adsorbents for different pollutants are discussed with respect to application and development of remediation technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-802
Number of pages10
JournalNew Biotechnology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 25 Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


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