Copper is one of the most excessively used metals in everyday life. It is a conductor of electricity and heat and has a wide range of applications such as plumbing, wires, roofing. Further, the metal is also utilized as a catalyst for solar and electrical conductors, petrochemical plants, and other energy-related appliances. Thus, scientists are always searching for new methods that can harvest more of this precious and useful metal.
In recent research, a team was successful in converting toxic copper ions into single stable atom copper. This is a significant development for Copper Mining Market as the study demonstrates the way copper-resistant bacterium can be converted Copper Sulfate (CuSO4) ions into zero-valent metallic copper (Cu). Researchers revealed that copper-resistant bacterium for this study was acquired from a copper mine in Brazil.
The team provided established information on how bacteria present in copper mines can be used to convert toxic copper ions into stable single-atom copper. Although copper being there in mines is not novel, however, it intrigued the team to search the reason for its presence. The bacteria were investigated through an electronic microscope, and their physics was discovered and analyzed. An intensive search revealed that the bacteria isolates single atom copper. In the field of chemistry, this process is extremely difficult to derive. Generally, harsh chemicals are needed to produce single atoms of any element. Thus, the new study is exciting as the bacterium in mines can create such atoms naturally.
The unique aspect of the method is that microbes found in the environment can easily do the said conversion. This is immensely remarkable as the current synthetic process of single atom zero-valent copper is highly labor-intensive. Further, it is also expensive and environmentally hazardous.
Explaining the method, the team stated that microbes extract copper (II) (Cu2+) through a unique biological pathway with an assortment of proteins. It then converts the copper into zero-valent single-atom copper (Cu0). In this manner, microbes are able to create slightly less toxic surroundings for themselves, and most importantly, they also make an element that is beneficial for the human population as well.
This new conversion approach might be an excellent alternative to produce single atom metallic copper that is more efficient and safe, in contrast with methods currently available (such as femtosecond laser ablation, sputtering, and chemical vapour deposition). Researchers, for now, have only studied one bacterium and think that there may be others that perform a similar function. They are keen to advance their research on harvesting copper from cells through practical applications.
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