Production of nickel bio-ore from hyperaccumulator plant biomass: pplications in phytomining

Rengasamy Boominathan, N M Saha-Chaudhury, Veena Sahajwalla, Pauline Mavis Doran

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An important step in phytomining operations is the recovery of metal from harvested plant material. In this work, a laboratory-scale horizontal tube furnace was used to generate Ni-enriched bio-ore from the dried biomass of Ni hyperaccumulator plants. Prior to furnace treatment, hairy roots of Alyssum bertolonii were exposed to Ni in liquid medium to give biomass Ni concentrations of 1.9 to 7.7 dry weight; whole plants of Berkheya coddii were grown in Ni-containing soil to produce above-ground Ni levels of up to 0.49 dry weight. The concentration of Ca in the Ni-treated B. coddii biomass was about 15 times greater than in A. bertolonii. After furnace treatment at 1200jC under air, Ni-bearing residues with crystalline morphology and containing up to 82 Ni were generated from A. bertolonii. The net weight loss in the furnace and the degree of concentration of Ni were significantly reduced when the furnace was purged with nitrogen, reflecting the importance of oxidative processes in Ni enrichment. Ni in the B. coddii biomass was concentrated by a factor of about 17 to yield a residue containing 8.6 Ni; this bio-ore Ni content is substantially higher than the 1 to 2 Ni typically found in mined ore. However, the B. coddii samples after furnace treatment also contained about 34 Ca, mainly in the form of hydroxyapatite Ca5(PO4)3OH. Such high Ca levels may present significant challenges for further metallurgical processing. This work demonstrates the feasibility of furnace treatment for generating Ni-rich bio-ore from hyperaccumulator plants. The results also suggest that minimizing the uptake of Ca and/or reducing the Ca content of the biomass prior to furnace treatment would be a worthwhile strategy for improving the quality of Ni bio-ore produced in phytomining operations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243 - 250
Number of pages8
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

Cite this

Boominathan, R., Saha-Chaudhury, N. M., Sahajwalla, V., & Doran, P. M. (2004). Production of nickel bio-ore from hyperaccumulator plant biomass: pplications in phytomining. Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 86(3), 243 - 250.