Iron sulfide attenuates the methanogenic toxicity of elemental copper and zinc oxide nanoparticles and their soluble metal ion analogs

Jorge Gonzalez-Estrella, Sara Gallagher, Maria Reye Sierra Alvarez, James A Field

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Elemental copper (Cu0) and zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticle (NP) toxicity to methanogens has been attributed to the release of soluble metal ions. Iron sulfide (FeS) partially controls the soluble concentration of heavy metals and their toxicity in aquatic environments. Heavy metals displace the Fe from FeS forming poorly soluble metal sulfides in the FeS matrix. Therefore, FeS may be expected to attenuate the NP toxicity. This work assessed FeS as an attenuator of the methanogenic toxicity of Cu0 and ZnO NPs and their soluble salt analogs. The toxicity attenuation capacity of fine (25-75μm) and coarse (500 to 1200μm) preparations of FeS (FeS-f and FeS-c respectively) was tested in the presence of highly inhibitory concentrations of CuCl2, ZnCl2 Cu0 and ZnO NPs. FeS-f attenuated methanogenic toxicity better than FeS-c. The results revealed that 2.5× less FeS-f than FeS-c was required to recover the methanogenic activity to 50% (activity normalized to uninhibited controls). The results also indicated that a molar FeS-f/Cu0 NP, FeS-f/ZnO NP, FeS-f/ZnCl2, and FeS-f/CuCl2 ratio of 2.14, 2.14, 4.28, and 8.56 respectively, was necessary to recover the methanogenic activity to >75%. Displacement experiments demonstrated that CuCl2 and ZnCl2 partially displaced Fe from FeS. As a whole, the results indicate that not all the sulfide in FeS was readily available to react with the soluble Cu and Zn ions which may explain the need for a large stoichiometric excess of FeS to highly attenuate Cu and Zn toxicity. Overall, this study provides evidence that FeS attenuates the toxicity caused by Cu0 and ZnO NPs and their soluble ion analogs to methanogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)380-389
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016



  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Elemental copper
  • Inhibition constants
  • Nanomaterials
  • Toxicity attenuation
  • Zinc oxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering

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