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Trends in Biotechnology
Vol. 34 (2), 2016, Pages: 137–155

Biological and Bioelectrochemical Recovery of Critical and Scarce Metals

Y.V. Nancharaiah, S. Venkata Mohan, P.N.L. Lens

Biofouling and Biofilm Processes Section, Water and Steam Chemistry Division (WSCD), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Kalpakkam 603102, Tamil Nadu, India.


Metal-bearing solid and liquid wastes are increasingly considered as secondary sources of critical and scarce metals. Undoubtedly, microorganisms are a cost-effective resource for extracting and concentrating diffuse elements from secondary sources. Microbial biotechnology for extracting base metals from ores and treatment of metal-laden wastewaters has already been applied at full scale. By contrast, microbe–metal interactions in the recovery of scarce metals and a few critical metals have received attention, whereas the recovery of many others has been barely explored. Therefore, this article explores and details the potential application of microbial biotechnologies in the recovery of critical and scarce metals. In the past decade bioelectrochemical systems have emerged as a new technology platform for metal recovery coupled to the removal of organic matter.

Keywords: biorecovery; biomining; bioprecipitation; critical metals; rare earth elements; platinum group metals; bioelectrochemical systems; microbial fuel cells.

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