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Iron-oxidizing bacteria?, the genus Leptothrix or Gallionella produce extracellular, uniquely-shaped micro sheaths or fibrous
bundles mainly composed of Fe oxides [named ?Biogenous Iron Oxides (BIOX)?] ubiquitously in hydrosphere where
groundwater outwells. These bacteria are often utilized as Fe collectors in water purifying plants. However, tones of BIOX yearly
accumulated in the plants have been regarded as natural waste and discarded by landfill. Our microscopic and spectroscopic
studies proved that BIOX was an ingenious hybrid of organic/inorganic materials produced through the interaction of bacterial
exo-polymers with aqueous-phase inorganics such as Fe, Si, P and often Ca. Intriguingly, BIOX was discovered to have a variety
of the industrial functions: lithium-ion battery anode material, catalyst enhancer, plant protectant and porcelain pigment.
We have aimed to establish technology to create the novel functional materials for industrial application by mimicking the
biogenic processes of BIOX formation. We succeeded to manipulate the texture and chemical components of the sheath-type
BIOX by altering components of the culture medium for an isolated strain of Leptothrix sp. OUMS1, leading to creation of
Si-rich Fe oxides complexes with diverse crystallinity, to create Al-rich BIOX by culturing OUMS1 in media containing varied
amounts of Al and to create nano-scaled architectural acidic silica by heating naturally produced BIOX in a hydrogen gas flow
followed by HCl treatment to remove Fe particles. These novel materials have great industrial potentials beyond artificially
synthesized Fe oxides and naturally produced BIOX. We expect the eco-friendly, nontoxic, low-cost BIOX and related novel
materials as fascinating functional materials for the next generation.
Hitoshi Kunoh received PhD from Southern Illinois University in 1970 and Dr Agriculture from Kyoto University in 1972. He joined Mie University as Assistant
Professor in 1970 and was promoted to Professor in 1988. He has published more than 300 papers concerning plant pathology and microbiology in reputed
journals. He served as Dean of Faculty of Bioresources, Mie University and as President and Editor-in-chief of the Japanese Society of Plant Pathology. Since 2009
he has worked as a guest Professor for the government-granted project, ?Toward Creating Innovative Applications to Harness the Novel Functions of Nano-scaled
Iron Oxides of Microbial Origin?.
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