Researchers can filter rare earths from waste water

| 15.12.14, 21:33

Scientists want to valuable substances such as Rare earth recycle using algae. For this purpose, they filter industrial waste water from waste dumps. The metal ions of the valuable raw materials at the surface of microalgae dock. Rare earths are used for the production of high-tech products such as smartphones and tablets.

Scientists from the Friedrich-Alexander-University (FAU) win the rare earth elements by means of algae from wastewater. The sustainable use of resources, for example with rare earth, is a central theme, when it comes to a variety of high technologies, which are used inter alia in the renewable energy.

Since rare earths are to isolate very complicated and is currently are offered almost exclusively by China on the market, is the development of intelligent and environmentally friendly recycling methods is of great importance for the industry. For environmental reasons, China has already limited the export of precious raw material two years ago.

The FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg has developed a method, with the the rare earth elements from industrial waste water, derived for example from spoil heaps from mining activities, can be obtained particularly environmentally friendly.

The use of rare earth is not only for the IT- and consumer electronics industry, but also for the production of wind power- and solar systems and hence for the implementation of renewable energy concept of the Federal Government of high importance.

Within Germany, the state of Bavaria has one of the highest densities of companies in the chemical, the metalworking industry and the special technology, all of which are also active in the renewable energy sector.

Rainer Buchholz, of the Institute of Biochemical passes at FAU, already experimenting for a decade with various types of microalgae. One focus of his work is on, from To win algae recyclables, which may be beneficial to people - From the use in the medicine to food-producing. "Microalgae are a very promising object of research. Whether for the recovery of raw materials or making better use of solar energy - as we try Bioverfahrensingenieure, to make the excellent properties of microalgae for the company used ", so Buchholz.

In light of these tests is growing evidence has shown, that Let metal ions outstanding "dock" from dilute solutions on the surface of microalgae. Under the project, the Erlanger researchers therefore want to develop a method for the economic and ecological value metal extraction with a specific focus on rare earths, which is fundamentally different from the established bacterial process: It is the first time a geobiotechnologischen approach to sustainable commodity hedging.

Microalgae can be produced in comparison to bacterial systems far more cost effective, because they do not make high demands on environment and nutrition. Preliminary results also show, that the metal binding even works with dead algae. This makes an easy use in practice possible. The scientists Buchholz want to test in the framework of the project, how then let out of the resulting laden algae biomass conversion metals again.

"We need a resource revolution", Environment Minister Calls Ulrike Sharp. "Waste of today are the raw materials of tomorrow. The goal is clear: We want to reduce the use of new raw materials and recover valuable resources as possible. "The exploitation of nature go to the detriment of future generations.


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