Aluminum extraction through biomining using Aspergillus foetidus and future implications for in-situ resource utilization



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2024 International Conference on Environmnetal Systems


Biomining is the process of using microorganisms to extract metals from rocks and regolith. Minerals within the lunar regolith contain metallic resources for use in-situ such as iron and aluminum. Such metals are suitable for extraction via biomining. Biomining is an attractive method for making in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) of Lunar minerals possible. Biomining is currently being used in the terrestrial mining and mineral processing industries on Earth to extract Cu, Al, Fe, Au, and other platinum-group metals and rare earth elements and is considered a promising solution to obviate the use of toxic chemicals. Because the same procedures used on Earth could be implemented in space, biomining would be a straightforward process for extracting metals on the Moon. Regolith would be collected, introduced to microorganisms and nutrients, and allowed incubate to provide time for the microorganisms to extract metals/metal compounds into solution.

Aspergillus foetidus, species of fungus, and Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans, an acidophilic and chemolithoautotrophic bacterium, are both organisms known for effective metal solubilization. Their bioleaching efficiencies of aluminum and iron from Lunar simulants were investigated. Cultures were grown in media containing Lunar Highland Simulant (LHS-1). Atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) was used for Al and Fe analysis of culturing media over the duration of the experiments to determine extraction efficiencies. From these experiments, we quantify the production rates of Al and Fe from Lunar simulate using microorganisms. These data will feed into an analysis of the feasibility of employing biomining as a strategy for ISRU of Lunar materials.


Natasha Bouey, Honeybee Robotics, USA
Emily Seto, Honeybee Robotics, USA
Paolo Gabrielli, Honeybee Robotics, USA
Kris Zacny, Honeybee Robotics, USA
Timothy Newbold, Honeybee Robotics, USA
Kevin Hubbard, Honeybee Robotics, USA
Kathryn Bywaters, Honeybee Robotics, USA
ICES308: Advanced Technologies for In-Situ Resource Utilization
The 53rd International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, on 21 July 2024 through 25 July 2024.


Biomining, In-situ resource utilization, Metal extraction