China: Turning wastewater into semiconductor materials

Chinese scientists have found a way to extract useful chemicals from water contaminated with heavy metals to produce valuable semiconductor materials in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way.


However, due to its diverse and complex composition, using industrial wastewater as a bacterial nutrient has become challenging. In addition, limited production capacity has resulted in costs 100 times higher than the price of gold. To find a more effective method, researchers are considering converting pollutants in wastewater into hybrid bio-semiconductors, made up of biological and non-biological components.

The research team chose Vibrio natriegens – a saltwater-friendly marine microorganism – to begin creating genetically modified bacteria. Professor Gao said Vibrio natriegens is one of the fastest growing industrial bacteria, which can grow twice as fast as the commonly used E coli.

In an experiment using biohybrids to purify wastewater solutions, 99% of cadmium ions were extracted and converted into cadmium sulphide particles.

In addition to proliferation in wastewater, biohybrid also converts organic pollutants into 2,3-butanediol (BDO), a valuable chemical widely used in the cosmetics, agriculture and care sectors.

According to

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