Employing the primordial soup as a biocatalyst to harvest precious metals and remove heavy metals from contaminated waters

B. Lusk
Precient Technologies,
United States

Keywords: microorganism, biocatalyst, heavy metals, precious metals


Approximately four billion years ago, the first microorganisms to thrive on Earth were anaerobic and chemoautotrophic, and thus did not use molecular oxygen (O2) or organic carbon for survival. Instead, these microorganisms used oxidized compounds, including oxyanions, as their terminal electron acceptors and consumed hydrogen gas (H2) as their electron donors. Precient Technologies' membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR) exploits this ancient metabolic process to convert oxidized compounds found in water, including platinum group metals (PGM), precious metals, and uranium (U) into reduced nanoparticles that can be harvested from microbial biomass. By tapping into microbial processes that mimic the first forms of respiration on Earth, Precient is able to use a self-healing, perpetual, living biocatalyst to vastly increase PGM recovery during metals recycling and remove U to below maximum contamination levels (MCL) from contaminated waters with minimal chemical additives and a low carbon footprint. By sharing a vision of increased water security via sustainable and microbially induced green chemistry with major industry players, Precient has transitioned fundamental lab experiments probing the origins of life into revenue-based biomining and bioremediation using commercialized bioreactors.