Zirconia enrichment in zircon sand by selective fungus-mediated bioleaching of silica.

Research paper by Vipul V Bansal, Asad A Syed, Suresh K SK Bhargava, Absar A Ahmad, Murali M Sastry

Indexed on: 23 Mar '07Published on: 23 Mar '07Published in: Langmuir


One of the important routes for the production of zirconia is by chemical treatment and removal of silica from zircon sand (ZrSixOy). We present here a completely green chemistry approach toward enrichment of zirconia in zircon sand; this is based on the reaction of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum with zircon sand by a process of selective extracellular bioleaching of silica nanoparticles. Since this reaction does not result in zirconia being simultaneously leached out from the sand, there is a consequent enrichment of the zirconia component in zircon sand. We believe that fungal enzymes specifically hydrolyze the silicates present in the sand to form silicic acid, which on condensation by certain other fungal enzymes results in room-temperature synthesis of silica nanoparticles. This fungus-mediated twofold approach might have vast commercial implications in low-cost, ecofriendly, room-temperature syntheses of technologically important oxide nanomaterials from potentially cheap naturally available raw materials like zircon sand.