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A Safer Alternative to Sourcing Copper via Bacteria

Copper remains one of the single most universal metals in everyday life. The researchers have found that the way bacteria found in mines convert toxic ions to stable single-atom copper. is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, it is utilized in wires, roofing and plumbing. It is also used as a catalyst for petrochemical plants, solar and electrical conductors and a wide range of energy-related applications.

The researchers said that Mining Bacteria can be used in Converting toxic  ions into a stable single-atom Copper. They also demonstrated how Copper-resistant bacterium from a mine in Brazil converts  sulfate ions into zero-valent metallic copper.

  1. Robles Hernandez, professor at the UH College of Technology said that the idea of having bacteria in mines is not new, but the unanswered question was the purpose of bacteria in the mines. When the bacteria were placed in an electronic microscope, we were able to figure out the physics and analyze it. We found out the bacteria were isolating single atom Copper. Many harsh chemicals are used to produce single atoms of any element. This bacterium is creating it naturally which is very impressive.

According to the Copper Development Association Inc, one billion tons of are estimated in global reserves, roughly 12.5 million metric tons per year mined. This aggregates to roughly 65 years of remaining reserves. Part of the supply challenge comes from limited available Copper in high concentration in the earth’s crust, but the other challenge is the exposure to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in the  smelting and production process to concentrate the metal into useful quantities.

Debora Rodrigues said that the novelty of this discovery is that microbes in the environment can easily transform  sulfate into zero-valent single atom Copper. This is a breakthrough because the current synthetic process of single atom zerovalent is typically not clean, it is labour intensive and expensive.

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