Mineral Processing (refining)

Impossible Metals is developing a methodology to enable bio-extraction of minerals using bacterial respiration. This patented process will enable the use of specific bacterial strains to liberate metals into solution, without the use of acids, toxic chemicals, or extreme heat. This process will disrupt existing processing technology such as flotation, roasting and leaching.

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Bacterial Respiration

The approach being developed by Impossible Metals is expected to have the following advantages over traditional processing methods:

  • No tailings or environmental pollutants
  • No use of toxic chemicals or acids
  • Low energy intensity – can achieve carbon neutrality
  • Neutral pH wastewater stream
  • Lower CAPEX and OPEX than traditional processing methodologies

This process is completely different from bio-leaching and does not use acid and happens in hours instead of months.

Early laboratory studies show that the bacterial strains are able to dissolve the nodule fragments, placing the metals into solution, within hours, producing only a neutral pH wastewater stream that can be recycled.

Watch our Co-founder, Professor Ken Nealson, giving a TED Talk on microbial technology innovation.

The bio-extraction team conducts experiments in the lab.