Rare earths are important components of wind turbines, catalytic converters, fibre optic cables and plasma screens. Since the 17 metals grouped under this term are indispensable for modern technologies, demand and costs are constantly rising. The occurrence of productive mining sites is limited and the production is often costly and environmentally harmful. The advantages of recycling these resources as efficiently as possible, for example from industrial waste water in the fields of mining, electronics or chemical catalysts, are obvious.
In cooperation with the University of Kaiserslautern, researchers at the Technical University of Munich have taken the circular economy of these demanded metals a huge step further: they examined several strains of cyanobacteria for their potential to bind rare earths from aqueous solution – and were successful.
The researchers determined the potential for the so-called biosorption of the rare earths lanthanum, cerium, neodymium and terbium for twelve strains of cyanobacteria. Most of these strains had never before been investigated for biotechnological potential. They come from habitats with extreme environmental conditions.
In a further project, the scientists plan to carry out the experiments on a larger scale in order to advance the industrial application of the results.
Michael Paper, Max Koch, Patrick Jung, Michael Lakatos, Tom Nilges and Thomas B. Brück: Rare Earths Stick to Rare Cyanobacteria: Future Potential for Bioremediation and Recovery of Rare Earth Elements. Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol., Sec. Bioprocess Engineering, Volume 11 – 2023
Spotlight July: Plastic Pollution and the Urgent Need for Comprehensive Action
Plastic pollution has become a significant threat to the oceans, biodiversity, and ecosystems worldwide. Despite efforts to reduce plastic consumption, escalating plastic production continues to increase the magnitude of plastic pollution in the environment. In response to this crisis, the UN-Environmental Assembly (Link) adopted a resolution in March 2022 to develop a legally binding treaty […]Read more
Spotlight October 2021: Nanopesticides – a proposal for a risk assessment framework
The application of so-called “nanopesticides” (see also cross-sectional text Nanomaterials in plant protection products) is said to have two basic advantages: a smaller amount of pesticide is needed for the same agricultural area and the efficacy is improved. This is necessary to grow enough food for a still growing world population. However, this could also […]Read more
Spotlight November 2022: Photonics in nature and bioinspired designs
Science has always taken nature as a model and imitated it. If you look at the field of photonics, i.e. the use of optical technologies for information processing, transmission or storage, the colorful examples in the animal and plant world are perfect basic drawers for technical applications. While colors in nature are used either for […]Read more
Spotlight December 2021: Silica nanoparticles improve plant disease resistance
The resistance of plants to various pathogens is often increased in agriculture with various chemicals (“fertilizers”). A new direction is being taken with the use of nanoparticles. These can be sprayed on the plants. In the present study, the model plant Arabidopsis was used to investigate whether silicon dioxide nanoparticles (SiO2) can increase resistance to […]Read more