Efficient Recycling Process for Rare Earths Through Bioleaching and Bioaccumulation

Joint research by BOKU Tulln and IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems shows great potential in the recovery of valuable materials from electronic waste. Up to 85% recovery of rare earths achieved in the laboratory.
By: IMC Krems
KREMS, Austria - June 11, 2024 - PRLog -- A research collaboration between BOKU Tulln and IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems is using the further development of bioleaching and bioaccumulation to develop a two-stage, environmentally friendly and sustainable process for recovering rare earths. In the bioaccumulation step, metal recovery rates of up to 85% were achieved from electronic scrap. The key to success lies in the combination of biotechnological processes. The promising foundations for these methods, which are currently under development, were recently published in the renowned journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

The sharp rise in demand for electronics in recent years, used in a wide range of electronic devices such as mobile phones, electric vehicles and computers, has led to an increase in waste containing rare earths. Most of this waste still ends up in landfills unused, despite the fact that rare earths are an important source of raw materials and have even been classified as critical raw materials by the EU. For this reason, intensive research is being carried out into efficient methods of recovery. Compared to other methods, the microbiology-based methods of bioleaching and bioaccumulation represent a promising 'green' alternative technology for recovering critical raw materials from electronic waste. It is cost effective, does not produce hazardous or polluting secondary waste and uses less energy. The basic principles of the processes are based on the production of acids by certain microorganisms that can 'leach' certain metals such as iron, copper or aluminium from the electronic waste. These metals interfere with the absorption process of the valuable rare earths in the subsequent bioaccumulation. Both methods have been researched for some time by the two partners, BOKU Tulln and IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems, and the research teams have now joined forces in a promising collaboration and combined their expertise.

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Prof. (FH) Dr. Dominik Schild

Institute Biotechnology

IMC Krems University of Applied Sciences

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Tags:Rare Earths
Location:Krems - Lower Austria - Austria
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