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Researchers Successfully Biomine Vanadium Aboard the Space Station

(FASTMAIL) -  For centuries, humans have mined materials to build the tools we use every day, from batteries and cell phones to airplanes and refrigerators. While the process of obtaining these important minerals used to rely entirely on heavy machinery, fire, and human labor, scientists have learned how to harness the natural power of microbes to do some of the work.

 This process, called biomining, has become common as a cost efficient and environmentally friendly way to obtain the metals around us in nature. As humans plan expeditions deeper into space, biomining offers a way to obtain needed materials for use on other planetary bodies rather than transporting them from Earth.

To test whether microbes could biomine vanadium in altered gravitational conditions, the team filled a KUBIK incubator on the space station with liquid growth media, a mixture of nutrients designed to support the growth of microorganisms. The team then grew selected microbes known to break down rocks under microgravity and simulated lunar and Martian gravity conditions. The researchers also supplied the microbes with basalt, a constituent of the lunar and Martian surfaces.

 

 

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