Newly Discovered Bacteria Could Revolutionize The Copper Industry
Copper is an invaluable resource for the wire and cable industry. It is an effective and flexible, yet economical, choice for conductor material. Copper has been used in many electrical experiments, including the invention of the telephone. Pure annealed copper boasts not only high conductivity but excellent tensile strength and thermal properties as well. Extracting this resource has not necessarily been easy in the past. However, scientists have discovered something that is about to make it easier.
Copper is typically removed from mined ores. An ore is a natural rock or sediment that contains extractable and valuable minerals. Copper ores also often contain other minerals like carbonate, sulfate, phosphate, and oxide. Extracting usable copper from these ores releases ionic, or charged, copper into the surrounding environment. This can leave negative environmental and health effects in its wake.
Researchers have recently found a bacteria microbe near a Brazillian copper mine that takes this charged copper and turns it into something valuable: pure copper! This bacteria is able to remove toxic particles from charged copper and produce monoatomic (or single-atom) copper. Since this nonionic copper is monoatomic, it is in its purest form. This makes it incredibly versatile.
Scientists discovered this by putting this bacteria into a flask with copper sulfate, which under normal conditions separates into ionic copper and sulfate. A few days later, the scientists put these microbes under a microscope and found around 13,000 single atoms of copper. How do these bacteria do it? They utilize a protein called ferritin to strip the copper of its toxicity.
Ionic copper is often incredibly hard to recover. It can be done in labs, but it produces toxic gases and is ultimately very costly. This bacteria is able to use the toxic particles as energy. This gives us a new way to produce copper in the future– a greener and more cost-effective way. While it is unclear how these microbes can be used to mass-produce pure copper at present, it’s a promising start.
This new discovery will affect many different industries, including science, medicine, and technology. The wire and cable industry will be able to utilize this pure copper as well. With a larger abundance of pure copper, we will be able to manufacture high-quality products at an even faster rate. Costs will ultimately decrease and copper mining will leave a smaller impact on the environment.
At Allied Wire and Cable, we thrive on industry experience and knowledge. It’s our mission to provide our customers with the highest quality customer service, products, and services. We also have a commitment to our community and have taken multiple green initiatives to minimize our carbon footprint and waste. This new scientific discovery aligns with our values and goals, so we knew we had to share it. To learn more about this bacteria, you can read the full scientific study here.