Part of the book: Nanomaterials
Biorecovery of rare earth elements (REE) from wastes and ores is achieved by bacteria using biogenic phosphates. One approach uses an enzyme that biomineralises REE phosphate crystals into the extracellular polymeric matrix (EPM). The enzyme, co-localised in the EPM, provides a continuous phosphate feed into biomineralisation. The bacteria can be immobilised in a column, allowing continuous metal removal. Metals biocrystallise at different rates. By choosing suitable conditions and column flow rates selective recovery of REE against uranium and thorium can potentially overcome a bottleneck in recovery of REE from mine tailings and ore leachates co-contaminated with these radionuclides. Another approach to REE recovery first lays down calcium phosphate as hydroxyapatite (Bio-HA) using the enzymatic process. Bio-HA then captures REE, loading REE of up to 84% of the HA-mass. REE3+ first localises at the grain boundaries of the small bio-crystallites and then substitutes for Ca2+ stoichiometrically within the HA. After REE capture the bio-HA/REE hybrid can be separated magnetically. A wider concept: using a ‘priming’ deposit of one mineral to facilitate the capture of REEs, has been shown, potentially providing a basis for selective REE recovery which would provide advantages over the > 100 steps currently used in commercial REE refining.
Part of the book: Rare Earth Element
The challenge of climate change promotes use of carbon neutral fuels. Biofuels are made via fixing carbon dioxide via photosynthesis which is inefficient. Light trapping pigments use restricted light wavelengths. A study using the microalga Botryococcus braunii (which produces bio-oil), the bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides (which produces hydrogen), and the cyanobacterium Arthrospira platensis (for bulk biomass) showed that photosynthetic productivity was increased by up to 2.5-fold by upconverting unused wavelengths of sunlight via using quantum dots. For large scale commercial energy processes, a 100-fold cost reduction was calculated as the break-even point for adoption of classical QD technology into large scale photobioreactors (PBRs). As a potential alternative, zinc sulfide nanoparticles (NPs) were made using waste H2S derived from another process that precipitates metals from mine wastewaters. Biogenic ZnS NPs behaved identically to ZnS quantum dots with absorbance and emission maxima of 290 nm (UVB, which is mostly absorbed by the atmosphere) and 410 nm, respectively; the optimal wavelength for chlorophyll a is 430 nm. By using a low concentration of citrate (10 mM) during ZnS synthesis, the excitation wavelength was redshifted to 315 nm (into the UVA, 85% of which reaches the earth’s surface) with an emission peak of 425 nm, i.e., appropriate for photosynthesis. The potential for use in large scale photobioreactors is discussed in the light of current PBR designs, with respect to the need for durable UV-transmitting materials in appropriate QD delivery systems.
Part of the book: Nonmagnetic and Magnetic Quantum Dots