Fresh water accounts for 3% of water resources on the Earth. Human and industrial activities produce and discharge wastes containing heavy metals into the water resources making them unavailable and threatening human health and the ecosystem. Conventional methods for the removal of metal ions such as chemical precipitation and membrane filtration are extremely expensive when treating large amounts of water, inefficient at low concentrations of metal (incomplete metal removal) and generate large quantities of sludge and other toxic products that require careful disposal. Biosorption and bioaccumulation are ecofriendly alternatives. These alternative methods have advantages over conventional methods. Abundant natural materials like microbial biomass, agro-wastes, and industrial byproducts have been suggested as potential biosorbents for heavy metal removal due to the presence of metal-binding functional groups. Biosorption is influenced by various process parameters such as pH, temperature, initial concentration of the metal ions, biosorbent dose, and speed of agitation. Also, the biomass can be modified by physical and chemical treatment before use. The process can be made economical by regenerating and reusing the biosorbent after removing the heavy metals. Various bioreactors can be used in biosorption for the removal of metal ions from large volumes of water or effluents. The recent developments and the future scope for biosorption as a wastewater treatment option are discussed.
Part of the book: Biosorption