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Manuscript Submission Deadline 29 February 2024

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Demand for metals of low natural abundance and variable distribution is increasing globally, as these are fundamental to alternative energy technologies (e.g., solar panels, wind turbines, lithium-ion batteries) and high-tech technologies (e.g., smartphones, electric vehicles, smart TVs). These metals are classified as critical by several countries, not only because of their importance to society but also because they are vulnerable to supply disruption. A largely untapped source of critical metals is in waste streams such as electronic waste and mine tailings. Recovering these can help offset waste management costs, generate new revenue streams and most importantly, enhance the circular economy while helping to achieve net-zero emissions.

Over the past decade, bio-based methods have proven their efficiency in recovering metals from diluted waste streams through solubilization or immobilization of metals at an industrial scale (e.g., bioleaching for Cu recovery, sulfate/sulfur reduction for Zn and Cu recovery). Despite these advances, the development of these methods to recover critical metals such as rare earth elements are still limited.

This Research Topic “Biotechnologies to Recover Critical Metals” aims to present the major advances in bioprocess engineering that allow the recovery of critical elements from waste streams. The topic aims to increase the fundamental knowledge of the mechanisms, operational conditions, microbiome and microbial consortia and biological components (e.g., genes and proteins) that help design and optimize biotechnological processes recovering critical metals. By overcoming the barriers of lacking know-how of these bioprocesses, more widespread implementation of these technologies is envisaged.

The Research Topic will accept original papers and reviews in the area of environmental biotechnology, including, but not limited to critical metals recovery through:
• bioleaching
• biological sulfate/sulfur reduction
• biosorption
• protein-based complexation
• enzymatic reductive precipitation
• analysis of the microbiome and microbial consortia

Keywords: biotechnology, critical metals, metal recovery, circular economy, critical minerals, bioleaching, bioprecipitation, biomaterials, biosoprtion, enzimatic precipitation, protein-based recovery


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Demand for metals of low natural abundance and variable distribution is increasing globally, as these are fundamental to alternative energy technologies (e.g., solar panels, wind turbines, lithium-ion batteries) and high-tech technologies (e.g., smartphones, electric vehicles, smart TVs). These metals are classified as critical by several countries, not only because of their importance to society but also because they are vulnerable to supply disruption. A largely untapped source of critical metals is in waste streams such as electronic waste and mine tailings. Recovering these can help offset waste management costs, generate new revenue streams and most importantly, enhance the circular economy while helping to achieve net-zero emissions.

Over the past decade, bio-based methods have proven their efficiency in recovering metals from diluted waste streams through solubilization or immobilization of metals at an industrial scale (e.g., bioleaching for Cu recovery, sulfate/sulfur reduction for Zn and Cu recovery). Despite these advances, the development of these methods to recover critical metals such as rare earth elements are still limited.

This Research Topic “Biotechnologies to Recover Critical Metals” aims to present the major advances in bioprocess engineering that allow the recovery of critical elements from waste streams. The topic aims to increase the fundamental knowledge of the mechanisms, operational conditions, microbiome and microbial consortia and biological components (e.g., genes and proteins) that help design and optimize biotechnological processes recovering critical metals. By overcoming the barriers of lacking know-how of these bioprocesses, more widespread implementation of these technologies is envisaged.

The Research Topic will accept original papers and reviews in the area of environmental biotechnology, including, but not limited to critical metals recovery through:
• bioleaching
• biological sulfate/sulfur reduction
• biosorption
• protein-based complexation
• enzymatic reductive precipitation
• analysis of the microbiome and microbial consortia

Keywords: biotechnology, critical metals, metal recovery, circular economy, critical minerals, bioleaching, bioprecipitation, biomaterials, biosoprtion, enzimatic precipitation, protein-based recovery


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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