Universities cooperate in the extraction of raw materials from secondary sources.
Scientists from the University of Nottingham and the Technical University of Denmark are working on a joint project to find a way to make the extraction of critical raw materials such as rare earths more sustainable. The goal is to reduce mining in favor of recovery from e-waste and other secondary sources. This should be efficient and, at the same time, cost-effective, which is why the project relies on bacteria. They separate the metals in the process known as bioleaching. Similar projects like the one at the Technical University of Munich use cyanobacteria, which bind the valuable resources to themselves in the dissolution process. According to Dr. Helena Gomes of the University of Nottingham’s School of Engineering, bioleaching can be very slow. Therefore, electrodialysis would also be used as part of the research project. She said that the process could be accelerated significantly with the help of weak electric currents.
The BEAR (Bioleaching and Electrodialytic Applications for metal Recovery from wastes) project will run for two years. It is funded with the equivalent of around 190,000 euros by the United Kingdom’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.