The use of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) as a matrix for cell immobilization has been extensively studied in various biological systems. However, its suitability has not been reported in biosorption studies where inactivated cells are used as biosorbents. In this work, PVA and alginate as immobilization matrices (for the biosorption of gold by a fungal biomass) were investigated by examining their physical and chemical properties. Compared to alginate gels, PVA gels were shown to be more resistant to mechanical abrasion, and more stable over a wide pH range. Although the PVA matrix did not affect the equilibrium uptake in gold biosorption studies, the time required to attain a removal of 80% of the initial metal concentration was 1.7 times that of the freely suspended biosorbent. This contrasts with the alginate immobilized biosorbent which required an increase of well over ten times the duration to attain the same removal efficiency. Results indicated that PVA gels conferred a lower mass transfer resistance than alginate gels. Gold biosorption by the PVA-immobilized fungi followed the commonly used Langmuir and Freundlich adsorption isotherm models although the former gave a better fit. The uptake of gold was dependent on the initial gold concentration and the biomass loading. Using a fungal biosorbent and gold ions as the model system, the results demonstrate the potential in the use of the PVA as a cell immobilisation matrix for biosorption studies.

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