The main objective of this research is to assess if it is possible to extract target metals efficiently (in terms of costs and acceptable yields), including some of the REEs from LED e-waste, using organic acids produced by heterotrophic microorganisms grown on an inexpensive carbon source. Effective extraction of metals by bioleaching requires a thorough knowledge of the selected e-waste, the microorganism’s abilities, the leaching mechanism, and an ability to identify limiting factors. These parameters will be two investigated in two steps 1) e-waste characterization followed by 2) selection of microorganisms in order to test their ability to produce organic acids for the subsequent leaching of metals from LED e-waste. One of four scenarios to produce organic acids biologically from a cheap carbon source will be studied for bioleaching potential.
The successful execution of this project would be a considerable step in the effective application of biological organic acids in biomining and e-waste recovery. It can also resolve one of the most significant challenges in the industrialization of the green metal recovery from e-waste (having a process with the lowest environmental footprint and the most commerciality potential). It will open up a new opportunity to utilize Canada’s vast resource of lignocellulosic biomass in forests and help construct waste-by-waste detoxification, as well as a circular bioeconomic model.