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Extremophilic algae selectively recovers precious metals from solution

By Tetsuo Satoh |

The research group of Ayumi Minoda at the University of Tsukuba (Japan, plmet.biol.tsukuba.ac.jp) has discovered that the cellular surface layer of the sulfothermophilic red algae, Galdieria sulphuraria, can efficiently adsorb gold and palladium ions, even in highly acidic conditions. G. sulphuraria lives on the rock surfaces of sulfate springs (such as those found in Kusatsu and Noboribetsu, Japan), under extreme conditions (low pH and temperatures up to 56°C). The researchers found that more than 90% of gold and palladium ions can be adsorbed by the algae from solutions with concentrations in the range of 0.5 parts per million (ppm) and strong acidic conditions (0.4 M HCl, with pH of 0.5). This low concentration is one order of magnitude lower than the 5–30 ppm concentration range that can be economically recovered by existing adsorption techniques, such as activated charcoal and ion-exchange resins. The researchers confirmed that G. sulphuraria selectively recovers Au3+ and Pd2+ from 0.6 M nitrohydrochloric acid (royal water) waste-metal solution, which contains other metal ions (68 ppm Fe2+/3+, 380 ppm Cu2+, 6 ppm Pt4+, 61 ppm Au3+, 59 ppm Ni2+, 7 ppm Sn2+, 18 ppm Pd2+ and 12 ppm Zn2+). The recovery efficiency is the same,…
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