Bacterial interaction with minerals (e.g. volcanic rock)

Volcanism can be defined as the manifestation of the surface of a planet or satellite of internal thermal processes through the emission at the surface of solid, liquid, or gaseous products. Environments resulting from volcanic activity are diverse and widespread, from acidic hot springs to deep ocean basaltic habitats.

The majority of volcanic environments can be identified by the presence of igneous rocks (rocks that are formed from solidification of cooled magma). Volcanic rocks are characterized by their chemical composition, such as basalt (low silicate) and rhyolite, (high silicate). During the early Archean (approximately 3.5 to 3 Ga ago) land masses consist of predominantly igneous rock. Consequently, exploring the biological activity of volcanic environments could potentially lead to an understanding of early microbial life on Earth.

Using the bacterium Cupriavidus metallidurans CH34 as test organism, for which a full genome microarray chip was developed, the microbiology team of SCK•CEN studies the fundamental physiological requirements of micro-organism to survive in a volcanic environment.
The mechanism of mineral extraction from the widely distributed volcanic rock basalt are investigated. In particularly, the research is focused on the mineral extraction of iron and potassium.

Projects & Partners

In collaboration with: Dr. C. Cockell from Open University Milton Kains in UK

Contact: Dr. Van Houdt Rob