Toxicity of ionic liquids to Clostridium sp. and effects on uranium biosorption

C. Zhang, S. V. Malhotra, A. J. Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


As green solvents ionic liquids (ILs) show high potential in nuclear industry for extraction and purification of actinides. However, to date relatively little information has been gained on ILs application in microbial processes, for example biosorption of radionuclides. We investigated the effects of three ILs, 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium hexafluorophosphate (BMIMPF6), N-ethylpyridinium trifluoroacetate (EtPyCF3COO) and N-ethylpyridinium tetrafluoroborate (EtPyBF4) on the growth and biosorption of uranium by Clostridium sp. The ILs affected the growth of the bacterium as evidenced by decreases in optical density, total gas production, and organic acids production from glucose metabolism. The IC50-48 h of three ILs decreased in the order of BMIMPF6 (8.26mM)>EtPyBF4 (7.04mM)>EtPyCF3COO (4.05mM). Uranium biosorption by the bacterial cells decreased by 75% in the presence of 1% (v/v) BMIMPF6 and by about 90% with 1% (v/v) EtPyBF4 or EtPyCF3COO, in comparison to the control without ILs. The diminished biosorption may be attributed to the membrane damages induced by EtPyBF4 and EtPyCF3COO, which can be visualized by Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) analysis. Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) analysis revealed the accumulation of uranium inside peripheral membrane of the cells exposed to uranium alone or with BMIMPF6, while little or no accumulation was observed in the presence of EtPyBF4 and EtPyCF3COO. These results imply that potential toxicity of ILs towards microorganisms is a particularly important issue in limiting its biotechnological applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-253
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - Jan 15 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Biosorption
  • Clostridium sp.
  • Ionic liquids
  • Toxicity
  • Uranium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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