German researchers find some cyanobacteria can absorb rare earth metals

March 9, 2023 |

In Germany, wind power turbines, catalytic converters, optical cables and plasma monitors: They all contain Rare Earth metals. Since these 17 metal elements are indispensable to modern technologies, cost and demand are constantly rising. Minable deposits are limited and production is often difficult and harmful to the environment. Recycling these resources as efficiently as possible, for example reclaiming them from industrial waste water generated in fields such as mining, electronics and chemical catalysts, is clearly beneficial.

Technical University of Munich researchers have brought these sought-after metals a great step closer to a Circular Economy: The scientists investigated several strains of cyanobacteria for their potential to adsorb Rare Earth metals from aqueous solutions – and were successful.

Researchers determined the potential of twelve strains of cyanobacteria for what is called “biosorption” of the Rare Earth metals lanthanum, cerium, neodymium and terbium. The majority of these strains had never been investigated in terms of their biotechnological potential. They are found in habitats with harsh environmental conditions, for example in the Namibian deserts, soda lakes in Chad, rock crevices in South Africa and polluted streams in Switzerland.

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Category: Research

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