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Project start 1.11.2020

The LANTANOPHOR project: Lanthanides (Ln) are critical raw materials and designated with a high supply risk by the European Commission. Their mining and purification have a considerable negative environmental impact and we urgently need sustainable and efficient recycling strategies for these elements. It was recently discovered that many bacteria use Ln for growth and utilize them in the active sites of enzymes (check out our recent publication on this topic!). The Ln-uptake mechanisms of these bacteria remain underexplored, however, the involvement of polydentate ligands (chelators) to bind lanthanides — lanthanophores (lanthanide carriers) — has recently been established. For the first time, practical applications of chelators that were specifically designed by nature to bind, recycle and separate the technologically-indispensable lanthanides are in reach.

Thus, the objective of LANTHANOPHOR is the identification and isolation of lanthanophores from the spent media of lanthanide-utilizing bacteria. The lanthanophore and related chelators will be evaluated for the use in Ln separation and recycling. The ERC team will further elucidate whether these ligands can be used in lanthanide bioremediation or for medical applications as chelators. The results of LANTHANOPHOR will advance the development of sustainable solutions and bioinspired applications that are urgently needed in the quest for new, environmentally friendly and faster Ln separation and recycling technologies. The unique combination of lanthanide biochemistry and coordination chemistry in this diverse team, along with our amazing collaborators opens unparalleled opportunities for discovery and characterisation of lanthanophores.

Current ERC Team in Munich: Lena Daumann (PI), Dr. Ignacio Sottorff (Postdoc, microbiology, LC-MS), Dr. Katie Fisher (Postdoc, lanthanide coordination chemistry), Sophie Gutenthaler (PhD student, lanthanide coordination chemistry and chelators), Tri Phi Manh (PhD student, synthesis of chelators).

ERC project related news:

More to come soon!