Resin to cobalt: Researchers extract battery raw material with bacteria

Resin to cobalt: Researchers extract battery raw material with bacteria

The raw material cobalt is currently in high demand in world markets – and it should remain so for the foreseeable future. The reason for this is its use, among other things, for the production of batteries in electric vehicles. Researchers are working on reducing the amount of cobalt in the batteries and instead relying on alternatives such as nickel. But it also increases the risk of fire, so cobalt is used totally wouldn’t be able to do without.

Most of the cobalt traded around the world is in Africa funded, in some cases even in problematic situations. But now a German-Chinese research team has succeeded in an interesting experiment, at least in the lab: they have cobalt from mining remains. harz be able to win.

The Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) reports on tests with samples from a body of water near Goslar. With the so-called bio-leaching process, 91 percent of the cobalt contained in the remains found there was extracted according to the authority. The participating scientists have their findings in an expert article. im Magazin »International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology« Briefly.

Cobalt is extracted from rocks with the help of acid-loving bacteria, which have been mined from the region over centuries and then thrown away. The microorganisms belong to the genus Sulfobacillus, which are also used to extract metals from other ores and residues. With their help, insoluble metal compounds are converted into a water-soluble form during the so-called bioleaching. It can then be further processed.

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During the investigation, researchers discovered a new type of bacteria called Sulfobacillus harzensis Received. The tiny creatures chewed on samples provided by the Institute for Processing, Landfill Technology and Geomechanics at the Technical University (TU) Klossal.

Contains more than a thousand tons of cobalt

For many years, research has been conducted to find out how the mineral remains from the unused ore mine Rummelsberg in the Harz Mountains collected in the so-called Bergetich Bolreich can be processed and refined. Initially the focus was on specialty metals such as indium and cobalt, but also copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold. Now the approach has brought success with cobalt as well.

It remains to be seen whether this process will actually be used on a large scale. Last but not least, the question is at what cost can cobalt be produced in this way – and where can the raw materials be processed. In any case, the potential yield will not be small: according to the Klossal University of Technology, the remains of Rammelsberg alone should contain about 1221 tons of cobalt.

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