Bioleaching Group

Bioleaching Group

As part of their Bio-innovative activities, the research group is developing methods in Bioleaching technology for applications to tackle environmental issues and support the United Nation's Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Bioleaching can be defined as the process of using microorganisms to extract or metabolise elements, generally metals, from complex mixtures. Because this technique has been used for many years to extract metals from their ores in the mining industry, it is sometimes referred as bio-mining in the process in mining and bio-hydrometallurgy (natural processes of interactions between microbes and minerals). Bioleaching is a natural process that has been taking place on earth with some of the first microorganisms, archeobacteria but its use in industry has been limited. Our research group is using this natural, economical and safe technology to address major environmental and economic issues.

Dr Sebastien Farnaud was invited to contribute to an event being hosted by the Defra e-Sustainability Alliance (DeSA) which took place at the London Natural History Museum on 24 October 2019. The event, entitled ‘Helping Businesses Achieve Sustainable Outcomes’ was celebrating the launch of DEFRA’s guide for sustainability to ICT industry, which offers best practice advice on sustainability in information and communication technology (ICT)  and identify and share new projects/initiatives.

The event featured a video outlining how bioleaching works and the work completed by Coventry University and our industrial partner, Network 2 Supplies LTD (N2S). Find out more about our work with N2S who are the UK's market leader in IT lifecycle services, which include Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment WEEE) compliant IT Recycling and Data Destruction services (accredited by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

Bioleaching and electronic waste (WEEE)

Europe is the largest market for electronic scrap recycling and part of a global market worth $11 billion in 2014 and expected to reach $34 billion by 2022 (Transparency Market Research, 2014). Precious metal recovery from electronics scrap forms a sub-section of this market. However, TMR is forecasting that precious metal recovery from electronics scrap will be a key driver for future growth. A circular economy could bring net savings of €600 billion (£523 billion) to European companies (European Commission, 2015).

Current scrap recycling processes involve European companies dismantling electronic equipment, and removing the easily accessible high value metal components from the printed circuit boards (PCBs). The remainder of the PCB’s is then exported to Asia (predominantly) where the metals are recovered through incineration. However, this method is costly and does not return full value. It is also not environmentally friendly and opens up concerns over data security due to third-party involvement in Asia. There is now a greater pressure on companies and their waste recyclers to be mindful of environmental issues and emphasise their green credentials, whilst maintaining profitability and data security.

Recently, electronic waste has been considered as the major secondary source of critical metals. As such, the recycling of WEEE should prevent the exhaustion of natural resources, while considering the reduction of the leakage of toxic materials into the environment. Bioleaching applications to WEEE recycling offers a reduction of environmental and human health impacts, increases the use of reusable and refurbished equipment and reduces energy use while conserving limited resources.

Find out more about Our Team

Baniasadi, M., Vakilchap, F., Bahaloo-Horeh, N., Mousavi, S. M. & Farnaud, S., Advances in bioleaching as a sustainable method for metal recovery from e-waste: A review. (2019). Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry. 76, p. 75-90 16 p.

Ray, D., Baniasadi, M., Graves, J., Greenwood, A. Lindamulage De Silva, A. and Farnaud, S. 20-23 Oct 2019. Alternative Bioleaching approach for Gold Recovery from Waste Printed Circuit Boards. 23rd IBS - International Biohydrometallurgy Symposium 2019, Fukuoka, Japan.

Baniasadi, M., Renshaw, D., Graves, J. and Farnaud, S. Bioleaching for metal recovery from IT networking and communication equipment. 4-7 September 2019. CEST2019, 16th International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology, Rhodes, Greece.

Graves, J., Renshaw, D. and Farnaud, S. Electrowinning from WEEE Bioleachate. 4-9 August 2019. Annual Meeting of the International Society of Electrochemistry, Durban, South Africa.

Baniasadi, M., Renshaw, D., Graves, J. and Farnaud, S. Bioleaching for metal recovery from WEEE 14-16th May, 2019 “Advances in (bio-)hydrometallurgy and applications” Hannover, Germany.

Baniasadi M., Mousavi S.M. A Comprehensive Review on the Bioremediation of Oil Spills. (2018) In: Kumar V., Kumar M., Prasad R. (eds) Microbial Action on Hydrocarbons. pp 223-25 Springer, Singapore.

Heydaraian, A., Mousavi, S. M., Vakilchap, F. & Baniasadi, M., Application of a mixed culture of adapted acidophilic bacteria in two-step bioleaching of spent lithium-ion laptop batteries (2018) Journal of Power Sources. 378, p. 19-30

Bahaloo-Horeh, N., Mousavi, S. M. & Baniasadi, M. Use of adapted metal tolerant Aspergillus niger to enhance bioleaching efficiency of valuable metals from spent lithium-ion mobile phone batteries. (2018): Journal of Cleaner Production. 197, 1, p. 1546-1557