Microbial Iron Respiration Can Protect Steel from Corrosion

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Microbial Iron Respiration Can Protect Steel from Corrosion

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
Mar 01, 2002
  • Biology
  • Chemistry


Microbiologically influenced corrosion (MC) of steel has been attributed to the activity of biofilms that include anaerobic microorganisms such as iron-respiring bacteria, yet the mechanisms by which these organisms influence corrosion have been unclear. To study this process, we generated mutants of the iron-respiring bacterium Shewanella oneidensis strain MR-1 that were defective in biofilm formation and/or iron reduction. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy was used to determine changes in the corrosion rate and corrosion potential as a function of time for these mutants in comparison to the wild type. Counter to prevailing theories of MC, our results indicate that biofilms comprising iron-respiring bacteria may reduce rather than accelerate the corrosion rate of steel. Corrosion inhibition appears to be due to reduction of ferric ions to ferrous ions and increased consumption of oxygen, both of which are direct consequences of microbial respiration.

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