Precious metals service provider Heraeus Precious Metals and biotechnology pioneer BRAIN AG have successfully completed a cooperation arrangement for the biological recovery of platinum group metals (PGM) from industrial process streams as planned. The aim of the cooperation was to develop a biotechnological process for the environment-friendly recovery of platinum group metals from industrial process streams.
High recovery rate from industrial process water
BRAIN has established a technology platform for PGM recovery, in which optimized microorganisms bind PGM metals via specific chemical surface interactions and enable them to be separated from industrial process water at a high recovery rate – even at high PGM concentrations and extreme pH values. The required analytical methods for the quantification of PGM metals were developed and carried out at BRAIN.
Dr. Christian Mock, Head of Business Line Chemicals at Heraeus Precious Metals is satisfied with the result: “The cooperation with BRAIN has brought us good results and confirmed our previous level of knowledge. Further research and development work is now required for industrial implementation in order to realize the results on an industrial scale. Our primary goal remains to make the processes of precious metal recovery even more sustainable”.
Dr. Martin Langer, EVP and Head of Business Development at BRAIN AG states: “We are proud to have met Heraeus' stringent requirements for a sustainable solution for PGM separation in only twelve months. Key factors for this success were the good cooperation with Heraeus – and our microorganism collection, which we have built up over decades in the form of our BioArchive.”
Sustainable recovery processes sought
Platinum group metals such as platinum, palladium or rhodium are used in various industries. Their recovery is becoming increasingly important as an alternative to the extraction of raw materials from primary raw material sources – but recycling processes are often associated with the consumption of large quantities of chemicals and energy. In line with the development towards a more sustainable economy, biotechnological solutions for recovery are therefore being sought.
The experts at BRAIN optimized the properties of microorganisms previously identified as suitable for binding PGM metals. The process established on a laboratory scale is financially competitive with conventional methods for the separation of platinum group metals in process solutions.