Project #4824

Plasmids and Rare Earth Elements from Wastewater

In Progress
Principal Investigator
Research Manager
Ms. Christine H. Radke
Bucknell University
Resource Recovery


Opportunities for next-generation resource recovery are now being evaluated to determine if wastewater professionals can produce and recover even higher value products such as volatile fatty acids, biopolymers, commodity chemicals, metals, and even genetic material and its encoded information.

Advancements in electronics, energy systems, and other technologies are increasing the demand for redox-stable metals with unique electrochemical properties, and these metals include the f-block lanthanide elements, yttrium, and scandium, collectively termed “rare earth elements” (REEs). This research seeks to provide perspective on the potential value of recovering these diffuse metals and genetic information from wastewater. REE recovery could offset the mining of natural REE reserves, while harvesting of plasmids or other genetic material may lead to unknown biocatalysts useful in biofuel production, human health care, and other areas.

 Originally funded as WERF project NTRY8R15.