Innovation That Matters

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Could bio-boosted plants mine clean energy metals?


A novel technique uses plants to absorb nickel in a much more sustainable extraction process

Spotted: Nickel is a major component of EV batteries. However, not only is nickel mining very polluting but there is also a shortage of the metal due to high demand and supply chain volatility. Deeptech company Genomines has potentially found a way to solve both of these problems, with a novel extraction technique called phytoextraction that uses plants to mine metal.

Genomines starts with plants that have the capacity to absorb metals present in the soil, and then genetically modifies them to boost their absorption capacity. Seeds are sown in areas known to be rich in nickel and allowed to grow. After harvest, the plants are dried and treated with methods including bioleaching and electrolysis to recover the metal.

According to the company, the quality of nickel recovered this way has been validated by battery manufacturers. The company has identified 35 million hectares in the world that are too rich in nickel to be used for farming, but too poor in ore to be profitable for traditional mining methods.

The company has raised €4.5 million in seed funding and is working on industrialising its process, moving from the laboratory stage to a small factory, probably in Hauts-de-France. They are seeking to raise another €50 million in capital. The company is incubated in the Creative Destruction Lab Climate programme.

Sustainable mining is the focus of a number of recent innovations covered here at Springwise, including a sustainable method for processing rare earth-containing clays and the use of microbes for mining lithium.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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