Microbial transformations by sulfur bacteria can recover value from phosphogypsum: A global problem and a possible solution

Ayoub Bounaga, Anwar Alsanea, Karim Lyamlouli, Chen Zhou, Youssef Zeroual, Rachid Boulif, Bruce E. Rittmann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Rising global population and affluence are increasing demands for food production and the phosphorus (P) fertilizers needed to grow that food. Essential are new approaches for managing the growing amount of phosphogypsum (PG) that is a by-product of phosphoric-acid production from phosphate rock. Today, only ~15% of the worldwide production of PG is recycled, mainly for agriculture and road construction. This review addresses microbial valorization of PG through strategies that apply sulfur-transforming bacteria: sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (SOB). The focus is on recovering elemental sulfur (S0), which can be used to make the sulfuric acid needed to produce phosphoric acid from rock phosphate. Our review provides in-depth understanding of the microbiological, chemical, and technological bases for microbial reclamation of S0 from PG. The review presents the principles and practices for sulfate leaching from PG, reduction of sulfate to sulfide by SRB, and oxidation of sulfide to S0 by SOB. The choice of electron donor for SRB, control of oxygen delivery to SOB, and nutrient requirements are emphasized. Although microorganism-based technologies for PG reclamation are far from mature, the efficiency of such SRB- and SOB-based processes has been documented at laboratory and industrial scales. This review should spur biotechnological advances toward recovering value from PG.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107949
JournalBiotechnology Advances
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • Biotechnology
  • Microbial valorization
  • Phosphogypsyum (PG)
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB)
  • Sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (SOB)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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