Clean drinking water from clean mining?

DSC_5017While 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

  1. Remove salt from seawater using desalinization process
  2. Keep the clean drinking water and the normally wasted leftover salty brine
  3. Add hard-working bacteria to this desalinized brine
  4. Watch as the metabolizing bacteria produce an electrical charge to attract metals such as calcium, potassium and valuable magnesium, from the surrounding brine
  5. ‘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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