This starving microorganism feed on metals can help combat industrial pollution.
Chilean biotechnologist Nadac Reales has found a way to deal with mining waste by discovering bacteria that can eat a nail in three days.
Chile is known to be the world’s largest copper producer. This leads to the formation of a large amount of waste that pollutes the country’s environment.
In her research, Reales focused on an iron-oxidizing bacteria called Leptospirillum, which she extracted from the Tatio geysers, located 4,200 meters above sea level.
These bacteria are extremophiles that can survive in an acidic environment. At first, it took them two months to break the nail, but when they were “starving”, the process went faster. After two years of testing, the bacteria “learned” to eat a nail in just three days.
“After biodisintegration the product generated (the liquid) can improve the recovery of copper in a process called hydrometallurgy,” said Reales.
As Nadac emphasized, chemical and microbiological tests have shown that microorganisms are not harmful to humans or the environment.
Once the disintegration process is complete, a raspberry liquid residue, known as the leaching agent, remains, which itself has an unexpected quality – it can “improve copper recovery in a process called hydrometallurgy.”
The sludge liquid could be used to remove copper from rock in a more environmentally friendly way than current chemical leaching, she said.
Image Credit: AFP
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