Logo IMC University Of Applied Sciences Krems

Press #Forschung#Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology#Innovation#Nachhaltigkeit

Recycling rare earths with microorganisms

Sustainable innovation from five years of research at IMC Krems

Rare earths are crucial components of the electronics we use every day. With the ever-increasing demand for electronic devices, the demand for rare earths is also growing continuously. In order to minimise the environmental impact of conventional mining, the "Bioprocess Engineering" research group at IMC Krems University of Applied Sciences has been dedicated to recovering rare earths from electronic waste using microorganisms for over five years.

The "Bioprocess Engineering" research group (Thomas Rieß, Wadih Rassy and project manager Dominik Schild, from left to right) is carrying out pioneering work on the sustainable recovery of rare earths using microorganisms. An important step towards environmentally friendly technology.

Innovative approaches to bioprocess engineering and fermentation technology

The approach is based on the bioaccumulation of metal ions by microorganisms, a concept that offers an environmentally friendly alternative to new recovery in bioprocess engineering and fermentation technology. Significant progress has already been made as a result of intensive research: Microorganisms such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) can absorb up to 85% rare earths from solutions, which is promising proof of the feasibility of the process.

Challenges and solutions

The research work being carried out at IMC Krems aims to further increase the efficiency of the process and overcome challenges, in particular the treatment of electronic scrap with high concentrations of interfering metals such as iron, aluminium and copper. Various strategies are being researched for this purpose, including increasing the metal resistance of the microorganisms and pretreating the scrap to remove these metals.

Partnerships and prospects

The research at IMC Krems is being carried out in close collaboration with BOKU Tulln, and promising approaches to solving these challenges have been developed. At the same time, the scalability of the process is being considered in order to successfully transfer the technology from laboratory scale to large scale.

Focus on sustainability

With the aim of developing an environmentally friendly and sustainable process for recycling rare earths, this research marks an important step towards a sustainable future. The progress made by the research group at IMC Krems offers promising prospects for reducing the environmental impact of rare earth mining and improving the sustainability of modern recycling processes.