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In this project, biofilm formation by some of the most important moderately thermophilic bioleaching bacteria, Acidithiobacillus caldus, Leptospirillum ferriphilum and Sulfobacillus thermosulfidooxidans on chalcopyrite surfaces will be studied.

Since a unique feature of the experimental setup is the use of well-defined microbial communities of limited diversity and known cultivation conditions, it will be possible to establish and test novel approaches for measuring and modelling a mixed-microorganism biofilm formation process. In particular, the following analyses will be carried out:

  • Integrative analysis using microscopy and high throughput omics of temporal and spatial biofilm development on the species and molecular network level;

  • Exploitation of large data sets for extensive bioinformatic analysis and processing for the formulation of multi-species biological network models (based on meta–omics data) alongside multi-species particle-based models (based on imaging data) to define the key factors affecting biofilm formation. The models will be used to predict and manipulate biofilm development for optimisation of metal release.

  • These "improved" biofilms will be iteratively evaluated to connect the model development with mineral oxidation rates, as well as their tolerance to changes in environmental conditions. The acquired data will then be used for the optimisation of the biomining process, thereby making this environmentally friendly technique more attractive to mining companies