May 17, 2020

Growing Electrical Wires with Bacteria?

shewanella
nanotube
wire
Electric
Admin
2 min
A bacteria called Shewanella is being researched for its ability to organically grow electrically conductive wires.
Bacteria are the most resilient life forms on this planet (and perhaps others), and researchers are discovering new bacterial strains that often defy o...

Bacteria are the most resilient life forms on this planet (and perhaps others), and researchers are discovering new bacterial strains that often defy our general understanding of how biological life can thrive.  Take for example, Shewanella, a bacteria that uses metal ions to live and grow in place of oxygen.  This bacteria sends out microscopic wires filled with various proteins to surrounding metallic elements, and an electron transfer process occurs.  The process is highly misunderstood, but essentially allows for the bacteria to live off of metal.   

Shewanella can also transform metals and trap them within solid mineral deposits, and researchers from the University of East Anglia and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are working to figure out how to utilize this bacteria’s unique ability in practical applications.  For instance, Shewanella’s metalworking abilities are already being considered as a way to prevent toxic metals from leaking into groundwater supplies.

More interesting, however, is the possibility of using Shewanella to grow microscopic conductive electrical wires for use in fuel cells and to expand the field of synthetic biology.  The university and national laboratory research team has isolated and determined the structure of one of the protein strains used by Shewanella to interact, manipulate, and live off of metal.

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Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have gone as far as labeling the electrical wires extruded from Shewanella as “nanotubes,” which up until now have been chemically engineered in laboratory settings.  Biologically grown nanotubes that can carry an electrical charge may prove to be far cheaper to produce than their laboratory counterpart.  The process of organic nanotube manufacturing is also far more environmentally friendly than the toxic metals and chemicals used in chemical manufacturing of microscopic electronic conductors for computers and other devices.   

The idea of biologically engineered energy is not science fiction, but is a very real possibility as advances—particularly in bacterial research—unfold.  Soon, we may be growing our power lines, and power stations will be running with the help of living organisms!

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Oct 19, 2020

Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process

cleantech
manganese
USA
Scott Birch
3 min
Nevada firm aims to become the primary manganese producer in the United States
Nevada firm aims to become the primary manganese producer in the United States...

Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.

Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.

The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content. 

In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.

Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.

"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president. 

“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.

"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.

Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.

Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.

A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.

The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.

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