Rhodotorula mucilaginosa Z1 capable of degrading nitrobenzene was immobilized in polyurethane foam. The nitrobenzene-degrading capacity of immobilized cells was compared to free cells in batches in shaken culture. Effects of pH and temperature on the nitrobenzene degradation showed that polyurethane-immobilized Z1 had higher tolerances toward acid, alkali, and heat than those of free cells. Kinetic studies revealed that higher concentrations of nitrobenzene were better tolerated and more quickly degraded by polyurethane-immobilized Z1 than by free cells. Moreover, the ability of polyurethane-immobilized Z1 to resist nitrobenzene shock load was enhanced. Experiments on the nitrobenzene degradation in different concentrations of NaCl and in the presence of phenol or aniline demonstrated that polyurethane-immobilized Z1 exhibited higher tolerance toward salinity and toxic chemicals than those of free cells. Immobilization therefore could be a promising method for treating nitrobenzene industrial wastewater. This is the first report on the degradation of nitrobenzene by a polyurethane-immobilized yeast strain. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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