Spotlight April 2023: Recycling rare earths – bacteria assist in the circular economy

Home > Spotlight April 2023: Recycling rare earths – bacteria assist in the circular economy

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.

 

Original publication:

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 April 2023: Recycling rare earths – bacteria assist in the circular economy

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