Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Virus That Binds: A Novel Idea Marries Biology And Mining

Date:
July 28, 2009
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
Researchers often make progress by applying a proven scientific method from one realm to another, connecting seemingly disparate disciplines. Such interdisciplinary approaches are powerful tools in the drive for scientific innovation. But who would ever dream of applying viruses to mining?

Prof. Scott Dunbar is enlisting the help of viruses and bacteria in copper mining.
Credit: Photo by Martin Dee

Researchers often make progress by applying a proven scientific method from one realm to another, connecting seemingly disparate disciplines. Such interdisciplinary approaches are powerful tools in the drive for scientific innovation.

Related Articles


But who would ever dream of applying viruses to mining?

Professor Scott Dunbar of UBC’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering would.

“I read an article about bacteriophage – viruses that infect bacteria – being used to create nanodevices in which proteins on the phage surface are engineered to bind to gold and zinc sulfide,” says Dunbar. “And it struck me: if zinc sulfide, why not copper sulfide? And if so, then it might be possible to use these bio-engineered proteins to separate common economic sulfide minerals from waste during mineral extraction.”

Bacteriophage, commonly called phage, refers to viruses that infect bacteria. Typically phage consists of an outer protein coating that enclose genetic material—DNA. They are the most abundant life form on Earth, numbering as many as 1031. Phage replicate by infecting bacteria but are harmless to humans, animals and plants. Only a few nanometers in diameter, hundreds could fill the diameter of a single human hair.

Current methods of sulfide mineral separation add detergent-like chemicals called collectors to a tank containing a slurry of finely ground ore particles. Collectors render specific sulfide particles in the ore hydrophobic (“afraid” of water) so that they attach to bubbles in the tank and float to the surface forming a sulfide concentrate. However, in some cases, particularly with ores that contain several sulfide minerals, the recovery of specific sulfide minerals can be poor.

Dunbar has partnered with UBC colleagues Sue Curtis and Ross MacGillivray from the Centre for Blood Research and the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology to bring the idea from concept to laboratory. Together they recently published a paper entitled Biomining with bacteriophage: Selectivity of displayed peptides for naturally occurring sphalerite and chalcopyrite in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering.

The researchers found that it is possible to identify proteins on bacteriophage that bind to minerals of economic interest such as sphalerite (zinc sulfide), the chief ore mineral of zinc, and chalcopyrite (copper iron sulfide), the chief ore mineral of copper. The procedure is called “bio-panning,” a type of genetic engineering.

“You begin with a phage library which may contain one billion phage particles, each with different protein sequences. A few of these have the binding protein of interest. When the entire library is exposed to the mineral of interest, these few will bind to the mineral,” explains Dunbar. “You wash away the non-binding phage, then expose the binding phage to E. coli, which they infect and reproduce. The resulting phage would have DNA that contains the ‘codes’ for the binding proteins of interest. The procedure is repeated four or five times to amplify the number of binders. It’s somewhat like breeding animals for particular features.

“I knew we had phage that could bind specifically to sphalerite and to chalcopyrite,” says Dunbar. “But then, so what? The phage had to do something to the mineral surfaces to be useful.”

It turns out that the phage that bind to a mineral do affect the mineral surfaces, causing them to have a different electrical charge than other minerals. The proteins on the phage also form links to each other leading to aggregation of the specific sulfide particles. “The physical and chemical changes caused by phage may be the basis for a highly selective method of mineral separation with better recovery. Another possible application is bioremediation, where metals are removed from contaminated water” says Dunbar.

Dunbar and his colleagues are the first to apply phage to mineral processing. Their work is supported in part by the Applied Research and Technology group of Teck Corporation and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. Prof. Valery Petrenko of Auburn University supplied a phage library.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "The Virus That Binds: A Novel Idea Marries Biology And Mining." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090722100018.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2009, July 28). The Virus That Binds: A Novel Idea Marries Biology And Mining. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090722100018.htm
University of British Columbia. "The Virus That Binds: A Novel Idea Marries Biology And Mining." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090722100018.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins