Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Alex DiIorio, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Theodore C. Crusberg, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Ronald D. Cheetham, Department Head




Penicillium ochro-chloron (ATCC strain # 36741), a filamentous fungus with the capability for removing copper ions from aqueous solutions, was studied as a possible biological trap (biotrap) for remediation of heavy metal contaminants in industrial wastewaters. This research demonstrated that in shake flasks the fungus removed copper from surrogate wastewater with 100mg/L copper contamination by as much as 99%. These results did not translate to the bioreactor configuration of a packed bed column, as channeling occurred through the bed, shown by conductivity tracer studies. A fluidized bed configuration was studied and resulted in copper removal of 97%, with a capacity of 149 mg[Cu]/g dry weight biomass, under the conditions of 50% dissolved oxygen. For dissolved oxygen concentrations below the critical oxygen concentration for the fungus (20% saturation) there was minimal copper removal. Mixing studies in the fluidized bed reactor showed that the system was diffusion limited. Mathematical modeling using first order kinetics associated with diffusion limited reactions resulted in rate constants for Cu 2+ uptake of approximately 0.031 h -1 , which were dependent on the dissolved oxygen concentration. Modeling of the reaction with a second order kinetic equation showed that there are possibly factors regulating copper uptake besides oxygen. Electron microscopy showed that in some instances the copper removed was retained as large porous spherical extracellular precipitates. Energy Dispersive X-ray (EDX) analysis has shown similar complexes to be copper phosphate precipitates (Crusberg, 1994). Removal of heavy metal contaminants from wastewater discharge is a necessity for many industries, due to environmental concerns and federal regulations. The use of a biological system for the removal and recycling of heavy metals could prove more economical than currently used physio-chemical processes.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Biology & Biotechnology

Project Type


Date Accepted





fungus, Penicillium ochro-chloron, bioreactor, Sewage purification, Heavy metals removal, Bioremediation, Penicillium, Copper