Biotechnology could provide many innovative alternatives for changing the way metals are obtained. Microbes have been used to dissolve metallic minerals and release metal ions into solution, from which pure metal can be obtained by electrolysis. Plants that accumulate metals in their roots and leaves have been used to concentrate metals, and mineral-binding peptides might be used to separate minerals. However, for billions of years microbes have been interacting with metals. Microbial communities in and near mineral sources are therefore a rich source of genetic information which could be used to create synthetic or modified microbiomes that concentrate metals. This would be a complete paradigm-change with enormous scope for transforming the way metals are obtained.
Trends in Biotechnology – Elsevier
Published: Jan 1, 2017
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