London: Bugs could soon be used to convert wastes from rare metals into high-value catalysts for generating clean energy, finds a recent study.
Biosciences researchers have uncovered the process that allows the common soil bacterium Desulfovibrio desulfuricans to recover the precious metal palladium from industrial waste sources.
Palladium is one of the platinum group metals (PGMs) which are among the rarest resources on earth. They possess a wide variety of applications due to their exceptional chemical properties.
PGMs are routinely used in many catalytic systems and help cut down greenhouse gas emissions, reports the journal Microbiology.
Kevin Deplanche from the University of Birmingham, who led the study, explained: "These metals are a finite resource and this is reflected in their high market value. Over the last 10 years, demand has consistently outstripped supply and so research into alternative ways of recovering palladium from secondary sources is paramount to ensuring future availability of this resource."
Previous work in the team`s lab showed that Desulfovibrio desulfuricans was able to reduce palladium in industrial wastes, said a Birmingham release. Now, the precise molecules involved in the reduction process have been identified.
Deplanche said, "Our ultimate aim is to develop a one-step technology that allows for the conversion of metallic wastes into high value catalysts for green chemistry and clean energy generation."