e-waste contains valuable metals such as Gold, copper or Rare earths, which are, as yet, hardly been used. From the circuit boards and components in Smartphones, LED and energy – saving lamps or computers that are available in pure back, a complicated and expensive thing, not counting so far is win.

in Particular, for the particularly valuable Rare earths, such as Terbium, Yttrium, or lanthanum, are usually present only in low concentrations, there is still no cost-effective recycling technologies. That could change, however, now.

scientists from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and the Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg, have developed an efficient method of Protein fragments, as it were, as a biological fishing of the valuable materials from electronic scrap fishing. How this works, the researchers report in the journal “Research in Microbiology”.

the biologist Franziska Lederer-led team of researchers went out of specific viruses that specialize in attacking bacteria. These so-called bacteriophages have an envelope, there are about 4000 different proteins. To this, the scientists have pinned with molecular biological methods short Protein fragments – called peptides.

Terbium fits exactly in a peptide-bag

Depending on the respective Protein molecules with specific shapes. So, the researchers found, for example, peptides, the small bags into shapes, into which the Rare earth Element Terbium perfect fit.

To the peptides can be used in the next step, a magnetic Material pinned. With such a biomagnetic System, the researchers were able to win Terbium from the fluorescent powder of discarded energy-saving lamps. To do this, you mixed the magnetic particles with a broth, in which the light-emitting powder was included. The particles are pinned, then with your bag to the Terbium. Then, the researchers to fish out the particles along with the Rare earth metals with a magnet.

The researchers are convinced that this method with other peptides specific to other Rare-earth metals, but also Gold, platinum, and copper transfer. Now, however, it applies first of all to bring the method to the terbium recovery ready for Application. Lederer estimates that by 2024 in the European Union, 25,000 tons of powder the used energy saving lamps will be incurred.


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