Shower of poster awards for HIF researchers
News of 11 October 2017
HIF staff members have lately been successful with presenting their research at various conferences. Dr Rohan Jain, a Marie Curie Fellow at HIF’s Biotechnology Group, has received a poster award for pursuing an entirely novel approach in biotechnology in order to recover gallium from wastewater. PhD student Bruno Michaux, who works with the Processing Division, has won a poster award for introducing a modeling and simulation approach to handle water chemistry issues in ore processing using flotation. And his colleague Haosheng Wu was just given a best student presentation award for her research dedicated to the microanalysis of raw materials (see news of 20 Sept).
A novel approach in biotechnology for recovering gallium
Dr Rohan Jain’s work drew the attention of the International Biohydrometallurgy Symposium. The conference deals with biotechnological methods used for recovering metals and took place in Freiberg from 24 to 27 September 2017. Rohan Jain applies certain molecules which are produced by microorganisms and which are called siderophores. One of their great advantages is their high selectivity towards metal ions, a principle called biosorption. This is used by the HIF researcher in order to develop biocomposites which are meant to capture gallium from wastewater and to bind it to a solid medium. “It is a very novel approach in biotechnology and biohydrometallurgy and has never been applied earlier”, he says.
And why is the researcher focusing exactly on gallium? “Gallium is a strategic element as it is the backbone of the electronics industry. It is used in light emitting diodes, mobile phones, transistors, electronic circuits and many other high-tech applications. As there are no primary mines of gallium available, wastewater and waste materials from industry are important secondary sources for that element. Yet the wastewater always also contains other ions such as sodium, calcium, arsenic and aluminum, so the recovery of gallium is a challenge”, he explains. In order to address this, siderophores are a perfect, stable and environmentally-friendly tool.
Rohan Jain accomplished a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, India, gained his PhD in Environmental Technology from the IHE Delft Institute of Water Education in Delft, Netherlands, and, prior to coming to HIF, worked as a Post-Doctoral fellow at Tampere University of Technology in Finland.
Saving water in the processing industry with the help of simulation models
Bruno Michaux won a best poster award at the International Symposium on Mining and Environment (ISME 2017), which took place in Bodrum, Turkey, from 27 to 29 September. The PhD student addresses one of the great challenges faced by the mining industry. In order to process the ore using flotation, mining companies often spend large amounts of freshwater which is then lost for man and environment. In its efforts to save water industry can, for example, increase the reuse of process water which would be discarded otherwise. However, this impacts negatively on the flotation results and, thus, on the recovery of valuable minerals.
In order to find a solution to this dilemma, one has to understand the reasons behind it: “The used-up process waters are not all the same, rather there is a great variety of them with each having their own special characteristics influencing the whole process”, explains Bruno Michaux. “So the major task is to take into consideration the intricate relationship between water chemistry and flotation efficiency. Based on this, we can develop a method to control the use of the process waters which will, in the end, allow the maintenance of a good efficiency for the ore beneficiation processes”, he says. The method he has been applying is to simulate the water circuit using a special simulation software.
The new findings are promising: “Our approach allows an online control of the water circuit. It provides a tool to plant operators which helps them to decide how the process water should be handled. This leads to an optimization in the use of water, avoiding the waste of process-friendly waters as well as the waste of mineral resources which would emerge if inappropriate waters would be used for flotation”, the PhD student points out. Ultimately, simulation models could help the processing industry reduce both its freshwater intake and the amount of wastewater originating from the beneficiation process, thus providing sustainability in social and ecological terms.
Bruno Michaux graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical and Geological Engineering from the University of Liège, Belgium, in 2013. He then followed the Erasmus Mundus EMerald program, gaining a Master’s degree in Georesources Engineering in 2015. He has been a PhD student at HIF since 2016, linking the Processing Division with System Integrated Metal Production pursued by Prof. Markus Reuter and his team. What is more, Bruno Michaux is a program co-coordinator of the Emerald network of which HIF and TU Bergakademie are members.