Catalysing the Growth in Metal Recovery


EPSRC 2012-2015

Research Team

Professor James Clark, Dr Andrew Hunt, Dr Helen Parker

External Collaborators

Centre for Novel Agricultural Products, University of York (growth of plants and optimisation of phytomining methods), CERM3, University of British Colombia (sourcing and characterisation of mining wastes), School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University (life cycle assessment).


Initial studies indicate that plants are capable of phytomining platinum group metals (PGM) to form stable metal nanoparticles that are active in a variety of industrially important reactions.  We intend to utilise mine tailings or waste mining waters to pass through plant beds for metal adsorption.  The resulting plants will be subjected to stabilisation procedures to yield a material with stabilised nanoparticles of PGM for use as heterogeneous catalysts.  This offers an effective solution to an international problem of metal depletion and will lead to the development of a new range of naturally derived catalysts.

Main Objectives

  • Phytoremediation of PGM metals from a variety of feedstocks, mainly focusing of mining wastes and slags, using plants such as willow.
  • Treatment of the PGM containing plants to produce stable heterogeneous catalysts to be used for a range of C-C coupling reactions, e.g. Heck, Suzuki and Sonogashira.
  • Full LCA of the phytomining process compared with conventional mining practices to determine the advantages/disadvantages of using this new technique.
  • An overall better understanding of the state of PGM metals worldwide – their predicted life time, the availability of these metals in waste, etc.


WP1 - Mining; WP2 - Phytoextraction; WP3 - Chemistry; WP4 - Life Cycle Assessment                                                                                                                                                        ‌

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