Space station biomining experiment demonstrates rare earth element extraction in microgravity and Mars gravity

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DOI

  • Charles S. Cockell, University of Edinburgh
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  • Rosa Santomartino, University of Edinburgh
  • ,
  • Kai Finster
  • Annemiek C. Waajen, University of Edinburgh
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  • Lorna J. Eades, University of Edinburgh
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  • Ralf Moeller, German Aerospace Center
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  • Petra Rettberg, German Aerospace Center
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  • Felix M. Fuchs, German Aerospace Center, Ruhr University Bochum
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  • Rob Van Houdt, Belgian Nuclear Research Center
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  • Natalie Leys, Belgian Nuclear Research Center
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  • Ilse Coninx, Belgian Nuclear Research Center
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  • Jason Hatton, ESTEC
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  • Luca Parmitano, ESTEC
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  • Jutta Krause, ESTEC
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  • Andrea Koehler, ESTEC
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  • Nicol Caplin, ESTEC
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  • Lobke Zuijderduijn, ESTEC
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  • Alessandro Mariani, Kayser Italia S.r.l.
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  • Stefano S. Pellari, Kayser Italia S.r.l.
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  • Fabrizio Carubia, Kayser Italia S.r.l.
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  • Giacomo Luciani, Kayser Italia S.r.l.
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  • Michele Balsamo, Kayser Italia S.r.l.
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  • Valfredo Zolesi, Kayser Italia S.r.l.
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  • Natasha Nicholson, University of Edinburgh
  • ,
  • Claire Marie Loudon, University of Edinburgh
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  • Jeannine Doswald-Winkler, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts
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  • Magdalena Herová, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts
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  • Bernd Rattenbacher, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts
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  • Jennifer Wadsworth, NASA Ames Research Center
  • ,
  • R. Craig Everroad, NASA Ames Research Center
  • ,
  • René Demets, ESTEC

Microorganisms are employed to mine economically important elements from rocks, including the rare earth elements (REEs), used in electronic industries and alloy production. We carried out a mining experiment on the International Space Station to test hypotheses on the bioleaching of REEs from basaltic rock in microgravity and simulated Mars and Earth gravities using three microorganisms and a purposely designed biomining reactor. Sphingomonas desiccabilis enhanced mean leached concentrations of REEs compared to non-biological controls in all gravity conditions. No significant difference in final yields was observed between gravity conditions, showing the efficacy of the process under different gravity regimens. Bacillus subtilis exhibited a reduction in bioleaching efficacy and Cupriavidus metallidurans showed no difference compared to non-biological controls, showing the microbial specificity of the process, as on Earth. These data demonstrate the potential for space biomining and the principles of a reactor to advance human industry and mining beyond Earth.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
Artikelnummer5523
TidsskriftNature Communications
Vol/bind11
ISSN2041-1723
DOI
StatusUdgivet - nov. 2020

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