The noble shift in corrosion potential to values between +300 and +400 mVSCE and the accompanying increase in cathodic current density and polarization slope at mild cathodic potentials that develop during microbial colonization of passive metals, are collectively known as ennoblement. This phenomenon is of concern as the noble shift in the corrosion potential may lead to pitting corrosion. We have demonstrated, by growing pure cultures of manganese oxidizing bacteria (MOB) Leptothrix discophora SP-6 under well defined conditions, that microbial deposition of manganese oxides causes ennoblement of 316L stainless steel (SS). Exposing 316L corrosion coupons in lakes and streams supported this conclusion; the rate and extent of ennoblement were positively correlated with the rates of deposition and the amounts of biomineralized manganese oxides deposited on the surfaces of the SS corrosion coupons. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) analyses of the deposits from the ennobled coupons revealed a mixture of manganese oxides, as expected. Many natural waters can support growth of MOB. When manganese-oxidizing biofilms accumulate on surfaces of passive metals there is a potential for manganese redox cycling on the metal surface. This process is initiated by depositing minute amounts of manganese oxides on the metal surface. These microbially deposited manganese oxides are then reduced by the electrons derived from anodic dissolution of the metal; the metal is corroding and the manganese oxides are reduced to divalent manganese ions. However, since the manganese ions are liberated within the manganese-oxidizing biofilm, the manganese ions are immediately reoxidized, and the cycle continues.

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