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Microbial mobilization of rare earth elements (REE) from mineral solids—A mini review

Working Group of Environmental Microbiology, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland

Topical Section: Development of Bioleaching

In the light of an expected supply shortage of rare earth elements (REE) measures have to be undertaken for an efficient use in all kinds of technical, medical, and agricultural applications as well as—in particular—in REE recycling from post-use goods and waste materials. Biologically- based methods might offer an alternative and supplement to physico-chemical techniques for REE recovery and recycling. A wide variety of physiologically distinct microbial groups have the potential to be applied for REE bioleaching form solid matrices. This source is largely untapped until today. Depending of the type of organism, the technical process (including a series of influencing factors), the solid to be treated, and the target element, leaching efficiencies of 80 to 90% can be achieved. Bioleaching of REEs can help in reducing the supply risk and market dependency. Additionally, the application of bioleaching techniques for the treatment of solid wastes might contribute to the conversion towards a more sustainable and environmental friendly economy.
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Keywords rare earth elements; REE; bioleaching; minerals; phosphors; fluorescent powder

Citation: Fabienne Barmettler, Claudio Castelberg, Carlotta Fabbri, Helmut Brandl. Microbial mobilization of rare earth elements (REE) from mineral solids—A mini review. AIMS Microbiology, 2016, 2(2): 190-204. doi: 10.3934/microbiol.2016.2.190

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