SciFridays: Mining Minerals from Seawater

[If the video doesn’t play, click HERE to view the video from]

“Damian Palin is developing a way to use bacteria to biologically “mine” minerals from water — specifically, out of the brine left over from the desalinization process.”–from his profile on

In this short and sweet video, engineer Damian Palin invites us to “imagine a mining industry in a way that one hasn’t existed before. Imagine a mining industry that doesn’t mean defiling the Earth.” His work is based in Singapore, a country with no natural resources, where land is at a premium, and water itself is a scarce resource. No wonder they are a leader in desalination technologies (seawater reverse osmosis where seawater is forced through a membrane filter creating pure water–with brine as a waste by product).

However, the brine by-product of the desalination process is currently just being dumped back out to sea, and is detrimental to the local environment. So Palin proposes that he can use bacteria to mine minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium out of the brine, basically creating a mineral mine for Singapore.

I’m intrigued by the innovation of out of the box thinkers like Palin, especially knowing that conservation and sustainability are the driving force behind his research. He says in one of the comments: “Be assured that I believe in the power and beauty of Nature and that the processes I am experimenting with are bioinspired and so should integrate harmoniously with natural processes.”

I think that his thoughts embrace the principle of “Think Global, Act Local,” and hope his research is as successful and sustainable as he imagines it could be.

How about you? Any thoughts?


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