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Researchers find salmon semen can be used to extract rare earth elements from waste

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Posted January 19, 2015

A team of researchers affiliated with several academic/research facilities in Japan has found that dried salmon semen can be used to extract rare earth elements (REEs) from liquid ore waste. In their paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, the team describes how they came up with the idea, the process they used, and the prospects of using their technique in commercial applications.

Researchers find salmon semen can be used to extract rare earth elements from waste

Abundance of elements in Earth’s crust per million of Si atoms. Credit: Public Domain

Currently, the process of retrieving REEs from ore waste involves the use of toxic and sometimes radioactive chemicals which often wind up in the environment causing problems. It is expensive too, because a special type of resin must be used. For that reason, scientists have been looking for other ways to get the job done. Back in 2010, another team of researchers discovered that phosphate on the surface of some types of bacteria attracted REEs allowing for collection of REEs—and it was ten times as efficient as current methods. The drawback, of course, was the difficulty in growing cultures for use on an industrial scale. In this new effort, the research team looked at dried salmon semen, known in Japan as milt, as a possible replacement.

Read more at: Phys.org

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