Algae Could Turn Toxic Water Into Metal and Biofuel

Contaminated water at Wheal Jane, where the Department for Environment is spending £2m a year on combating pollution. Photograph: Rex Features. Via The Guardian.

We’ve featured pieces on different biofuels before, though probably not enough of them. We’ve also recently seen an example of how science can help clean up the messes that other scientifically informed — but less environmentally scrupulous — activities create, like the new carbon-scrubbing structures that might be used in coal plants. The topic of bioremediation is one of great interest and which we plan on sharing more about, especially in the mycological realm. For now we’ll start with this story of algal bioremediation and resource recuperation in Cornwall, one of England’s most historically important mining regions. Jamie Doward reports for The Guardian:

A groundbreaking research project to clean up a flooded Cornish tin mine is using algae to harvest the precious heavy metals in its toxic water, while simultaneously producing biofuel.

If the project, which is at a very early stage, is proven to work, it could have huge environmental benefits around the world.

The GW4 Alliance, which brings together the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter, in collaboration with Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), the Coal Authority and waste management group Veolia, is taking untreated mine water samples from the Wheal Jane tin mine in Cornwall and growing algae in them in a laboratory.

The alliance is exploring whether the algae is effective in removing harmful materials, such as arsenic and cadmium, from the mine water. Researchers hope to convert the algae into a solid from which heavy metals can be extracted and recycled for use in the electronics industry. The remaining solid waste will then be used to make biofuels.

“It’s a win-win solution to a significant environmental problem,” said Dr Chris Chuck from the University of Bath’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies. “We’re putting contaminated water in and taking out valuable metals, clean water and producing fuel.”

To read the full article, click here.

3 thoughts on “Algae Could Turn Toxic Water Into Metal and Biofuel

  1. Pingback: Particulate Matter Pollution | Raxa Collective

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