Soon, microbes will generate clean energy

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Washington, Sep 02 (ANI): Scientists have discovered that microbes could soon be used to convert metallic wastes into high-value catalysts for generating clean energy.

Researchers from the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham have discovered the mechanisms that allow the common soil bacterium Desulfovibrio desulfuricans to recover the precious metal palladium from industrial waste sources.

Palladium is one of the platinum group metals (PGMs) which are among the most precious resources on earth.

They possess a wide variety of applications, due to their exceptional chemical properties.

PGMs are routinely used in many catalytic systems and are the active elements of autocatalytic converters that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr Kevin Deplanche who led the study explained why new ways of recovering PGMs are needed.

"These metals are a finite resource and this is reflected in their high market value," he said.

"Over the last 10 years, demand has consistently outstripped supply and so research into alternative ways of recovering palladium from secondary sources is paramount to ensuring future availability of this resource."

The precise molecules involved in the reduction process have been identified. Hydrogenase enzymes located on the surface membrane of the bacterium carry out the reduction of palladium, which results in the accumulation of catalytic nanoparticles.

The bacterial cells coated with palladium nanoparticles are known as 'BioPd."

The group believes that BioPd has great potential to be used for generating clean energy.

The report has been published in the September issue of Microbiology. (ANI)

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