Lanthanum is an important member of the rare earth elements (REE) that are a global strategic resource and have many technological applications ranging from microelectronics manufacturing to the production of clean and renewable energy. Aspergillus niger is widely used in industrial fermentations due to its production of multiple secondary metabolites including citric and oxalic acids. Since it is a ubiquitous soil inhabitant and produces geoactive agents, it can play a role in the biotransformation of metal-containing minerals. Previous studies found that A. niger is capable of mineral solubilization and secondary mineral formation, many metals being precipitated as oxalates. However, there is limited knowledge about the biotransformation of La mediated by fungi. The aim of this project was to explore the mechanisms and factors determining the interactions between A. niger and La. In this study, fungal growth on La-supplemented solid media was carried out and it was discovered that crystalline deposits were formed around fungal colonies in the presence of LaCl3. These biogenic crystals were recovered and subjected to examination for their elemental composition, morphological features and mineral phases using energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDXA), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) respectively. These confirmed the biotransformation of lanthanum and identified the products as lanthanum oxalate [La2(C2O4)3·10H2O], which was further transformed into La2O3 by thermogravimetric (TG) treatment. Geochemical modelling also supported these results. Our findings provide a new aspect for the bioprecipitation and biorecovery of REE from solution using fungal culture systems.

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