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Bioresour Technol. 2001 Feb;76(3):241-4.

Enhanced biodegradation of cyclotetramethylenetetranitramine (HMX) under mixed electron-acceptor condition.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, LA 70310, USA.


The biodegradation of cyclotetramethylenetetranitramine, commonly known as 'high melting explosive' (HMX), under various electron-acceptor conditions was investigated using enrichment cultures developed from the anaerobic digester sludge of Thibodaux sewage treatment plant. The results indicated that the HMX was biodegraded under sulfate reducing, nitrate reducing, fermenting, methanogenic, and mixed electron accepting conditions. However, the rates of degradation varied among the various conditions studied. The fastest removal of HMX (from 22 ppm on day 0 to < 0.05 ppm on day 11) was observed under mixed electron-acceptor conditions, followed in order by sulfate reducing, fermenting, methanogenic, and nitrate reducing conditions. Under aerobic conditions, HMX was not biodegraded, which indicated that HMX degradation takes place under anaerobic conditions via reduction. HMX was converted to methanol and chloroform under mixed electron-acceptor conditions. This study showed evidence for HMX degradation under anaerobic conditions in a mixed microbial population system similar to any contaminated field sites, where a heterogeneous population exists.

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