Rapid socio-economic development and technological advancement has made the hazardous chemical components of end-of-life electronics waste (e-waste) an imminent challenge. Conventional extraction methods rely on energy-intensive processes and are inefficient when applied to recycling e-waste or waste streams that contain mixed materials and small amounts of metals. NASA Ames Research Center has developed an inexpensive biological approach to removing or adsorbing a target substance or material, for example a metal, non-metal toxin, dye, or small molecule drug, from solution.
This invention is a method of removing or adsorbing a target substance or material, for example, a metal, non-metal toxin, dye, or small molecule drug, from solution, by functionalizing a substrate with a peptide configured to selectively bind to the target substance or material and to bind to the substrate. The substrate is fungal mycelium, and the naturally occurring or bioengineered peptide is called a target-binding domain, which is chemically bonded to a selected solid substrate.
The target chemical species binds to the target-binding domain and is removed from solution. The target can be any chemical species dissolved or suspended in the solution. Capture of the target by the substrate can isolate and allow removal of the target substance from solution, or for utilization in water filtration, or recovery of targeted chemical species from solution, particularly aqueous solution applications.
The peptides used include fusion peptides and/or proteins containing metal-binding domain sequence and optionally containing substrate-binding domain sequence; fusion peptides/proteins containing a metal-binding domain and a chitin-binding domain; and (nucleic acids encoding fusion peptides and/or proteins containing metal-binding domain sequence.
The technology enables simple scale up to a level that could be successfully implemented in an environment with limited resources, such as on a space mission or on earth in developing countries with poor access to clean water.