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BOB HIRSHON (host):
Fungi recycling. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
Lithium ion batteries power everything from cell phones to cars. They’re made from materials that are both valuable and toxic, so engineers don’t want them to end up in landfills when they wear out. University of South Florida environmental engineer Jeffrey Cunningham says fungi related to bread mold could help extract valuable lithium and cobalt from the batteries.
JEFFREY CUNNINGHAM (University of South Florida):
When they grow, they naturally produce organic acids. And those acids are able to leach the lithium and cobalt out of the battery.
The key is raising strains of fungi that can extract lots of the metals without poisoning themselves.
If the fungi get all the cobalt out of the batteries, that cobalt in high concentrations could be toxic to the fungi that are doing all the work, and we don’t want to poison our labor force.
He presented the research at this week’s meeting of the American Chemical Society. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.