A dozen exotic bacteria are found to passively collect rare earth elements from wastewater

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An image of Cyanobacteria, Tolypothrix. Credit: Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Rare earth elements (REEs) are a group of 17 chemically similar metals, which got their name because they typically occur at low concentrations (between 0.5 and 67 parts per million) within Earth’s crust. Because they are indispensable in modern technology such as light-emitting diodes, mobile phones, electromotors, wind turbines, hard disks, cameras, magnets and low-energy lightbulbs, the demand for them has increased steadily over the past few decades, and is predicted to rise further by 2030.

As a result of their rarity and the demand, they are expensive: for example, a kilo of neodymium oxide currently costs approximately €200, while the same amount of terbium oxide costs approximately €3,800. Today, China has a near-monopoly on the mining of REEs, although the discovery of promising new finds (more than one million metric tons) in Kiruna, Sweden was announced with great fanfare in January 2023.

Hexbyte Glen Cove Circular economy

The advantages of moving from a wasteful “linear” economy to a “circular” economy, where all resources are recycled and reused, are obvious. So could we recycle REEs more efficiently, too?

In Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, German scientists have shown that the answer is yes: The biomass of some exotic photosynthetic cyanobacteria can efficiently absorb REEs from ; for example those derived from mining, metallurgy, or the recycling of e-waste. The absorbed REEs can afterwards be washed from the biomass and collected for reuse.

“Here we optimized the conditions of REE uptake by the cyanobacterial biomass, and characterized the most important chemical mechanisms for binding them. These cyanobacteria could be used in future eco-friendly processes for simultaneous REE recovery and treatment of industrial wastewater,” said Dr. Thomas Brück, a professor at the Technical University of Munich and the study’s last author.

Hexbyte Glen Cove Highly specialist strains of cyanobacteria

Biosorption is a metabolically passive process for the fast, reversible binding of ions from aqueous solutions to biomass. Brück and colleagues measured the potential for biosorption of the REEs lanthanum, cerium, neodymium, and terbium by 12 strains of cyanobacteria in laboratory culture. Most of these strains had never been assessed for their biotechnological potential before. They were sampled from highly specialized habitats such as arid soils in Namibian deserts, the surface of lichens around the world, natron lakes in Chad, crevices in rocks in South Africa, or polluted brooks in Switzerland.

The authors found that an uncharacterized new species of Nostoc had the highest capacity for biosorption of ions of these four REEs from , with efficiencies between 84.2 and 91.5 mg per g biomass, while Scytonema hyalinum had the lowest efficiency at 15.5 to 21.2 mg per g. Also efficient were Synechococcus elongates, Desmonostoc muscorum, Calothrix brevissima, and an uncharacterized new species of Komarekiella. Biosorption was found to depend strongly on acidity: it was highest at a pH of between five and six, and decreased steadily in more acid solutions. The process was most efficient when there was no “competition” for the biosorption surface on the cyanobacteria biomass from positive ions of other, non-REE metals such as zinc, lead, nickel, or aluminum.

The authors used a technique called to determine which functional chemical groups in the biomass were mostly responsible for biosorption of REEs.

“We found that biomass derived from cyanobacteria has excellent adsorption characteristics due to their high concentration of negatively charged sugar moieties, which carry carbonyl and carboxyl groups. These negatively charged components attract positively charged metal ions such as REEs, and support their attachment to the biomass,” said first author Michael Paper, a scientist at the Technical University of Munich.

Hexbyte Glen Cove Fast and efficient, with great potential for future applications

The authors conclude that biosorption of REEs by cyanobacteria is possible even at low concentrations of the metals. The process is also fast: for example, most cerium in solution was biosorbed within five minutes of starting the reaction.

“The described here can adsorb amounts of REEs corresponding to up to 10% of their dry matter. Biosorption thus presents an economically and ecologically optimized process for the circular recovery and reuse of rare earth metals from diluted industrial wastewater from the mining, electronic, and chemical-catalyst producing sectors,” said Brück.

“This system is expected to become economically feasible in the near future, as the demand and market prices for REEs are likely to rise significantly in the coming years,” he said.

More information:
Rare earths stick to rare cyanobacteria: future potential for bioremediation and recovery of rare earth elements, Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology (2023). DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2023.1130939

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Google Cloud’s Anthos on Bare Metal with Intel® Architecture

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Google Cloud customers want to modernize existing applications and build cloud- native apps anywhere to promote agility and cost savings—and that’s exactly what Google Cloud’s Anthos delivers. However, because some workloads—especially those sensitive to latency—are not suited to a virtualized environment, Google now offers Google Cloud’s Anthos on bare metal. This solution combines the application platform benefits of Anthos with the hardware/software stack control, high-performance, and cost efficiency of a bare metal environment.

Google and Intel collaborated to create verified Intel® architecture-based reference configurations for Anthos on bare metal that can provide fast insights, low latency, and high throughput. Powerful Intel® hardware features drive the predictable performance that latency-sensitive workloads require in the data center, as well as

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SpaceX Dragon crew to blast off for ISS

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is to blast off early Monday for the International Space Station carrying two NASA astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and the second Emirati to voyage to space.

The SpaceX Dragon Crew-6 is set to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1:45 am (0645 GMT). Weather conditions are expected to be near perfect.

The Crew Dragon , dubbed Endeavour, is scheduled to dock with the ISS at 2:38 am (0738 GMT) on Tuesday if all goes as planned.

NASA’s Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, Russia’s Andrey Fedyaev and Sultan al-Neyadi of the United Arab Emirates are to spend six months on the orbiting station.

Neyadi, 41, will be the fourth astronaut from an Arab country and the second from the oil-rich United Arab Emirates to journey to space; his countryman Hazzaa al-Mansoori flew an eight-day mission in 2019.

Neyadi described the upcoming mission as a “great honor.”

Hoburg, the Endeavour pilot, and Fedyaev, the Russian mission specialist, will also be making their first space flights.

Fedyaev is the second Russian cosmonaut to fly to the ISS aboard a SpaceX rocket. NASA astronauts fly regularly to the station on Russian Soyuz capsules.

Space has remained a rare venue of cooperation between Moscow and Washington since the Russian offensive in Ukraine placed the two capitals in sharp opposition.

Such exchanges have continued despite those tensions.

Bowen, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, said politics rarely come up while in space.

Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev sits next to a photo of the patch bearing the names of the four members of SpaceX Dragon Crew-6 mission.

“We’re all professionals. We keep focused on the mission itself,” the mission commander said. “It’s always been a great relationship we’ve had with cosmonauts once we get to space.”

While aboard the ISS, the Crew-6 members will conduct dozens of experiments including studying how materials burn in microgravity and researching heart, brain and cartilage functions.

The current crew is the sixth to be transported by a SpaceX rocket to the ISS. The Endeavour capsule has flown into space three times.

NASA pays the private SpaceX company to ferry astronauts to the flying laboratory roughly every six months.

The space agency expects Crew-6 to have a handover of several days with the four members of the SpaceX Dragon Crew-5, who have been stationed on the ISS since October. Crew-5 will then return to Earth.

Hexbyte Glen Cove Rescue capsule

Also currently aboard the ISS are Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin and Sergei Prokopyev, as well as NASA astronaut Frank Rubio.

They had been scheduled to return home on March 28 but the cooling system of their Soyuz MS-22 capsule was damaged by a tiny meteoroid in mid-December while docked with the ISS.

An uncrewed Russian Soyuz capsule, MS-23, took off on Friday from Kazakhstan to bring the three astronauts home. They are now scheduled to return to Earth in September.

The ISS was launched in 1998 at a time of increased US-Russia cooperation following the Cold War space race.

Russia has been using the aging but reliable Soyuz capsules to ferry astronauts into space since the 1960s.

But in recent years, Russia’s space program has been beset by a litany of problems that have led to the loss of satellites and vehicles.

© 2023 AFP

SpaceX Dragon crew to blast off for ISS (2023, February 26)
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Simplify the Move to Hybrid Cloud and Gain Business Agility

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Many enterprises have extensive VMware- based solutions running on-premises. They recognize the potential benefits of cloud computing, but IT can find it daunting to move many complex and diverse applications to the cloud. They don’t have the time to learn new tools and separate management systems for separate on-premises and cloud-based workloads.

Google Cloud VMware Engine solves these challenges by making the migration simple, using the familiar VMware stack. To better support customers’ performance needs, the service runs on the 2nd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable Processors.

Download this whitepaper to understand how you can:

  • Extend or bring your on-premise workloads to Google Cloud

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