Could bacteria eat e-waste? Talk about grabbing a byte to eat…

Coventry University’s Professor of Bio-innovation and Enterprise, Sebastien Farnaud, has talked to ELN about a sustainable way to recover precious materials from e-waste using bacteria

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What if bacteria could help us clean up growing mountains of electronic waste?

Professor of Bio-innovation and Enterprise at Coventry University Sebastien Farnaud talked to ELN about a process, called bioleaching, which could provide a sustainable way to recover precious materials from e-waste using bacteria.

He said: “This is something that is not new. Something that first of all the industry, the mining industry has been using it since the early 1940s in South Africa to start with and all over the world. For the mining, they have been using microorganisms to pick up metal from ores. But this is something that has been on for billions of years. This is what microorganisms do.”

He explains that the process is very simple: “In a nutshell, the bacteria simply oxidise the metal so that the metal gets a solution. And then it’s up to us to recuperate the metal from the solution.”

Mr Farnaud added: “I think the important thing is that the method we are using nowadays, recycling metal, all of them are either using a lot of energy input and melting and burning or they are using toxic chemicals.”

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