Many Department of Energy (DOE) sites are contaminated with highly carcinogenic hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)). In this research, we explore the feasibility of applying complex resistivity to the detection and monitoring of microbially-induced reduction of hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) to a less toxic form (Cr(III)). We hope to measure the change in ionic concentration that occurs during this reduction reaction. This form of reduction promises to be an attractive alternative to more expensive remedial treatment methods.

The specific goal of this research is to define the minimum and maximum concentration of the chemical and biological compounds in contaminated samples for which the Cr(VI) - Cr(III) reduction processes could be detected via complex resistivity. There are three sets of experiments, each comprised of three sample columns. The first experiment compares three concentrations of Cr(VI) at the same bacterial cell concentration. The second experiment establishes background samples with, and without, Cr(VI) and bacterial cells. The third experiment examines the influence of three different bacterial cell counts on the same concentration of Cr(VI).

A polarization relaxation mechanism was observed between 10 and 50 Hz. The polarization mechanism, unfortunately, was not unique to bio-chemically active samples. Spectral analysis of complex resistivity data, however, showed that the frequency where the phase minimum occurred was not constant for bio-chemically active samples throughout the experiment. Significant shift in phase minima occurred between 10 to 20 Hz from the initiation to completion of Cr(VI) reduction. This phenomenon was quantified using the Cole-Cole model and the Marquardt-Levenberg nonlinear least square minimization method. The data suggest that the relaxation time and the time constant of this relaxation are the Cole-Cole parameters most sensitive to changes in biologically-induced reduction of Cr(VI).

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