A protein mines, sorts rare earths better than humans, paving way for green tech

Rare earth elements, like neodymium and dysprosium, are a critical component to almost all modern technologies, from smartphones to hard drives, but they are notoriously hard to separate from the Earth's crust and from one another. Scientists have discovered a new mechanism by which bacteria can select between different rare earth elements, using the ability of a bacterial protein to bind to another unit of itself, or 'dimerize,' when it is bound to certain rare earths, but prefer to remain a single unit, or 'monomer,' when bound to others.

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