Environmental Chemistry Letters

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 439–445 | Cite as

Plants to harvest rhenium: scientific and economic viability

  • Luís A. B. Novo
  • Claudio F. Mahler
  • Luís González
Original Paper


Rhenium (Re) is one of the rarest (7 × 10−8 %) and most widely dispersed elements on Earth’s upper crust. As a consequence of its scarcity, Re is also one of the most expensive metals in the world market. Re is indeed highly demanded by the aerospace industry for the production of high-temperature superalloy turbine blades. There is a lack of study on the viability of Re phytomining. The occurrence of Re in vegetation surrounding natural and anthropogenic sources of Re suggests the ability of plants for Re accumulation and biogeochemical indication. Here we studied the aptitude of Indian mustard and scouring rush to uptake Re, in order to test the feasibility of Re phytomining. An organic substrate was spiked with KReO4 to attain Re concentrations of 5, 10, 20, 40, and 80 mg kg−1. The plants were grown for 45 and 75 days under controlled greenhouse conditions. Plant tissue samples from roots and shoots were collected in septuplicate at both harvests and analysed by atomic emission spectroscopy. Our results show high concentrations of Re in plants, ranging from 1553 to 22,617 mg kg−1 at 45 days and from 1348 to 23,396 mg kg−1 at 75 days for Indian mustard range. A profit of 3906 US$ ha−1 harvest−1 is expected from the recovered Re. Our findings thus demonstrate for the first time the scientific and economic viability of Re phytomining.


Phytomining Phytoremediation Rhenium Brassica juncea Equisetum hyemale 



The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) under grant Nº SFRH/BPD/103476/2014 and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development of Brazil (CNPq) under process No. 150084/2014-5.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GeoBioTec, Department of GeosciencesUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Civil EngineeringFederal University of Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Plant Biology and Soil ScienceUniversity of VigoVigoSpain

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