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Bacteria can extract copper from whisky waste

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have developed a new method of cooper ion extraction that could make whisky waste product safer and profitable.

Scientists hope the new bacteria method can make whisky waste greener and profitable

The team of researchers, in cooperation with Diageo, has found that adding certain bacteria will bind the toxic, soluble copper ions produced during distillation. The bacteria then turns the ions into stable nanoparticles which could be sold as antimicrobials, to fight bacteria in other industries, or as quantum dots, which are essential in products such as transistors, solar cells and LEDs.

Nikolaos Pantidos, from the team at University of Edinburgh, told the Institute of Engineering and Technology that large distilleries could produce up to 1kg of copper nanoparticles per day, with a value of more than £5,000.

“The whisky co-products need to be disposed of safely because they contain high levels of copper that is toxic to living organisms,” said Pantidos.

“There are ways to remove this copper but the industry is always looking for alternatives and greener ways of bio-remediation.”

While distillers already remove copper ions from waste product, current methods can be costly. It is hoped that by introducing the new bacteria-based method waste processing will become greener and more efficient, while opening up an extra revenue stream.

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