While preparing last week’s post, where I explored the lengths we will go to mine rare earth elements, I came across a TED talk I’d like to share.
In Our race to find rare earths, from deep sea to the moon, I mentioned the possibility of using nanomaterials to recover precious minerals from seawater.
Research engineer Damian Palin has been working on a similar idea, but better: the ultimate win-win situation even the greenest mining opponent couldn’t object to! He’s developing a way to use bacteria to biologically “mine” minerals from water — specifically, out of the brine left over from the desalinization process.
Here’s how it could work
- Remove salt from seawater using desalinization process
- Keep the clean drinking water and the normally wasted leftover salty brine
- Add hard-working bacteria to this desalinized brine
- Watch as the metabolizing bacteria produce an electrical charge to attract metals such as calcium, potassium and valuable magnesium, from the surrounding brine
- ‘Mine’ the metals that accumulate as minerals on the surface of the bacteria.
Now watch the expert
It’s an elegant solution to a notoriously messy industry, but it isn’t prefect, just check out the range of comments in response to the video! But definitely an ‘idea worth sharing’ – thanks again TED.com.
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