Corrosion of copper in oxygen-deficient groundwater with and without deep bedrock micro-organisms: Characterisation of microbial communities and surface processes

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Copper specimens were exposed to oxygen-deficient artificial groundwater in the presence and absence of micro-organisms enriched from the deep bedrock of the planned nuclear waste repository site at Olkiluoto island on the western coast of Finland. During the exposure periods of 4 and 10 months, the copper specimens were subjected to electrochemical measurements. The biofilm developed on the specimens and the water used in the exposures were subjected to microbiological analyses. Changes in the water chemistry were also determined and surfaces of the copper specimens were characterized with respect to the morphology and composition of the formed corrosion products. The results showed that under biotic conditions, redox of the water and open circuit potential (OCP) of the copper specimens were generally negative and resulted in the build-up of a copper sulphide, Cu2S, layer due to the activity of sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB) that were included in the system. In the 4-month test, the electrochemical behaviour of the specimens changed during the exposure and alphaproteobactria Rhizobiales were the dominant bacterial group in the biofilm where the highest corrosion rate was observed. In the 10-month test, however, deltaproteobacteria SRB flourished and the initial electrochemical behaviour and the low corrosion rate of the copper were retained until the end of the test period. Under abiotic conditions, the positive water redox potential and specimen OCP correlated with the formation of copper oxide, Cu2O. Furthermore, in the absence of SRB, Cu2O provided slightly inferior protection against corrosion compared to that by Cu2S in the presence of SRB. The obtained results show that the presence of microorganisms may enhance the passivity of copper. In addition, the identification of key microbial species, such as SRB thriving on copper for long time periods, is important for successful prediction of the behaviour of copper.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1044-1057
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Surface Science
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed



  • microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC)
  • copper
  • sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB)
  • biofilm
  • corrosion

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