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Innovative use of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans for the biological machining of metals

, : Innovative use of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans for the biological machining of metals. Acta Biotechnologica 20(2): 87-96

Preliminary results on the novel use of the bacterium Thiobacillus ferrooxidans (ATCC13598 and ATCC33020) for the micro-machining (or biomachining) of metals are reported. Biomachining is a controlled microbiological process to selectively form microstructures on a metal work-piece by metal removal (or dissolution) using microorganisms. Applying copper and mild steel as work-pieces, it was shown that the mass removed increased proportionately with machining time. In another experiment, the work-pieces were coated with organic photo-resistive materials to mask (i.e. protect) certain regions of the metals, thereby defining the microstructure to be formed. The unmasked regions were successfully biomachined; the final machined profile was shown to be similar to the coating image on the original metal. Although biomachining proceeded at a slower rate than chemical machining, the undesired leaching of the metal in the region under the masked area (termed undercutting) was not as severely encountered when compared with the latter. This work demonstrates the potential use of microorganisms for the biomachining of metals. As a "green process", the innovative use of T. ferrooxidans for the micro-machining of metals opens up the possibility of biomachining as an alternative to conventional metal processing.


DOI: 10.1002/abio.370200202

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