With the increasing demand for rare earth elements (REEs) in many emerging clean energy technologies, there is an urgent need for the development of new approaches for efficient REE extraction and recovery. As a step toward this goal, we genetically engineered the aerobic bacterium Caulobacter crescentus for REE adsorption through high-density cell surface display of lanthanide binding tags (LBTs) on its S-layer. The LBT-displayed strains exhibited enhanced adsorption of REEs compared to cells lacking LBT, high specificity for REEs, and an adsorption preference for REEs with small atomic radii. Adsorbed Tb3+ could be effectively recovered using citrate, consistent with thermodynamic speciation calculations that predicted strong complexation of Tb3+ by citrate. No reduction in Tb3+ adsorption capacity was observed following citrate elution, enabling consecutive adsorption/desorption cycles. The LBT-displayed strain was effective for extracting REEs from the acid leachate of core samples collected at a prospective rare earth mine. Our collective results demonstrate a rapid, efficient, and reversible process for REE adsorption with potential industrial application for REE enrichment and separation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry