The extraction of rare earths is a very expensive process, having dramatic consequences for the planet (degradation, impacts on water quality, etc.). Currently, China controls 95% of the World production of these minerals widely used in the field of new technologies and electronics. The development of new methods of sustainable recycling from waste and environmentally friendly is a major challenge for manufacturers. German scientist were able to extract rare earth form industrial waste thanks to micro-algae. That could be a major step in saving the future of our lovely electronics devices such as the iPhone.
Researchers at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU, Bavaria), gathered around Professor Buchholz, have recently developed an environmentally friendly process for extracting rare earth elements from water industrial waste from mining. Experiments have observed that metal ions in solution grip to the microalgae surface. They tried then to develop a metal recovery process of economic and ecological purposes, focusing mainly on rare earths. This process is based on a geo-bio-technological approach for the preservation of mineral deposits.