Bioleaching of Heavy Metals from Printed Circuit Boards with an Acidophilic Iron-Oxidizing Microbial Consortium in Stirred Tank Reactors

Juan Tapia, Alex Dueñas, Nick Cheje, Gonzalo Soclle, Nila Patiño, Wendy Ancalla, Sara Tenorio, Jorge Denos, Homar Taco, Weiwei Cao, Diogo A.M. Alexandrino, Zhongjun Jia, Vitor Vasconcelos, Maria de Fátima Carvalho, Antonio Lazarte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, bioleaching was carried out for the recovery of metals (copper, zinc, tin, lead, gold and silver) from printed circuit boards residues (PCBs), one of the most important wastes from electrical and electronic equipment, using an acidophilic iron-oxidizing bacterial consortium enriched with minerals from a gold mine in the Arequipa region, Peru. High-throughput sequencing and analysis of the 16S rRNA biomarker revealed that this consortium was predominantly composed of Tissierella, Acidiphilium and Leptospirillum bacteria, from which the latter is known to grow by chemolithotrophy through iron oxidation. After the enrichment process, the acidophilic iron-oxidizing consortium was first tested for its tolerance to different PCBs concentrations, showing best growth up to 10 g/L of PCBs and a tolerance index of 0.383. Based on these results, the bioleaching efficiency of the consortium was investigated for 10 g/L of PCBs in stirred tank reactors coupled to an aeration system, for 18 days. High bioleaching efficiencies were achieved for copper and zinc (69% and 91%, respectively), indicating that these two metals can be easily extracted in this leaching system. Lower extraction efficiencies were achieved for tin (16%) and gold (28%), while for lead and silver only a residual recovery (<0.25%) was detected. These results indicate that the enriched bacterial consortium originating from the Arequipa region, Peru, has a high capacity to recover different metals of economic importance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number79
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Acidophilic iron-oxidizing bacterial consortium
  • Bioleaching
  • Heavy metals
  • Metals tolerance
  • Printed circuit boards


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