"Environment" research area

Using Thermophilic Metal-Reducing Bacteria to Enhance Metal Recovery

Primary Investigator - Jeffrey GralnickPrimary InvestigatorJeffrey Gralnick
Co-Investigators: Victoria Portuguez Molina (Undergraduate Research Scholar)
Industry Partners: NA
Award Type: Undergraduate Research Scholar 

Problem: Mass production of electronics has increased demand for a range of elements. Recovery and reuse of metals from electronics is the only sustainable pathway forward. We hypothesize that thermophilic metal-reducing bacteria could be used to mobilize valuable metals from electronic waste.

Solution: Biomining, or the use of microbes to selectively solubilize valuable metals, is an emerging area of research. Thermophillic microbes may present a unique approach to mobilizing high-value metals (cobalt, silver, gold, rare earth elements, etc.) from mine and/or electronic waste streams.

Impact: In this basic research project, we will grow the Gram positive thermophile Thermincola under a variety of laboratory conditions to better understand the conditions that produce abundant cell mass. We will then use model E-waste components to test mobilization of metals under various conditions, quantifying a range of metals with ICP-MS.