New Research Allows Recovery of Precious Metals From Water Sources

A research team from Osaka Metropolitan University in Japan has developed an environmentally friendly and inexpensive adsorbent material that can selectively recover precious metals and rare earth elements (REEs) from hot springs and seawater. The new material is composed of  environmentally friendly and inexpensive baker’s yeast and the food additive, trimetaphosphate. It’s hoped that this technique will add to our ability to maintain a stable supply of these much needed elements, as global demand grows.

The team used synthetic seawater and hot spring water to evaluate the performance of the new material in a real environment. They were able to confirm that the material can selectively adsorb REEs even when using hot spring water with an REE concentration of several to several tens of ppb (μg/L) and a very high content of other components. This successfully demonstrated that the new adsorbent material has the  potential for effective REE recovery even in challenging environments with complex compositions.

“This new technology is expected to contribute to the realization of a metal resource-circulating society and a safe society through environmental purification. In the future, we will continue to conduct experiments on a variety of environmental water with the aim of establishing a system capable of treating large quantities of metal resources through continuous operation,” said team lead, Professor  Masayuki Azuma.

Azuma’s team plans to conduct further experiments on various environmental water samples, with the ultimate goal of establishing a scalable system capable of efficiently treating large volumes of metal resources through continuous operation.