Recovery of scrap iron metal value using biogenerated ferric iron

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The utility of employing biogenerated ferric iron asan oxidant for the recycling of scrap metal has been demonstrated using continuously growing cells of the extremophilic organism Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. A ferric iron rich (70 mol%) lixiviant resulting from bioreactor based growth of A. ferrooxidans readily solubilized target scrap metal with the resultant generation of a leachate containing elevated ferrous iron levels and solubilized copper previously resident in the scrap metal. Recovery of the copper value was easily accomplished via a cementation reaction and the clarified leachate containing a replenished level of ferrous iron as growth substrate was shown to support the growth of A. ferrooxidans and be fully recyclable. The described process for scrap metal recycling and copper recovery was shown to be efficient and economically attractive. Additionally, the utility of employing the Eh of the growth medium as a means for monitoring fluctuations in cell density in cultures of A. ferrooxidans is demonstrated. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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Biotechnology and Bioengineering