Biological recovery of metals from lithium ion batteries (LIBs) and synthesis of nanoparticles

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences


The Horsfall group is engineering bacteria to recover metals from spent lithium ion batteries (LiBs) once reuse is no longer possible. By using the new tools and techniques provided by advances in biology we will engineer microbes with the ability to selectively recover metals in the form of nanoparticles adding value to the recovery process. Desulfovibrio alaskensis can recover a variety of metals through the production of nanoparticles but it cannot discriminate between Co and Ni, both of which are likely to be present in battery leachates. Therefore, this PhD project will investigate the selective recovery of Ni through engineering of D. alaskensis. This project will also investigate the recovery of two other important metals in LiBs, Al and Li, using Pseudomonas species. Furthermore, the elemental composition and physicochemical properties of biogenic nanoparticles are known to differ depending on the bacterial species and conditions used. Thus, the production of biogenic Ni, Li and Al nanoparticles will be studied under varying factors (e.g. aerobic/anaerobic, media composition, temperature).
This project will examine native bacterial metal resistance systems, their potential for genetic manipulation and opportunities for their application. This may involve the characterisation of promoters and ribosomal binding sites with reporter genes, the optimisation of proteins in the metal nanoparticle synthesis pathway and investigation of the resultant effects on the metal resistance exhibited by the organism. The identification of relevant molecules for the selective recovery of Ni, Al and Li will contribute to the development of a of bio-based system for the recovery of metals. The project offers training in molecular biology, synthetic biology, biochemistry and nanotechnology. The work in this project will provide the necessary tools and knowledge needed to improve upon current metal biorecovery yields.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S514901/1 30/06/2018 30/03/2025
2283100 Studentship EP/S514901/1 30/09/2019 31/12/2023 Giovanni Maddalena