Follow that termite!

Posted: February 25, 2020 by oldbrew in Batteries, Carbon cycle, Emissions, research
Tags: , ,

Termite mound in Australia [image credit: Wikipedia]


So termites could lead us to the solution to…
CO2-generating termites? The wizardry of would-be planet savers – or could it be the sharpness of opportunists? – never ceases to amaze.

Hidden metal deposits needed to transition the world to low emission technologies can be discovered using metallic blue crusts in soils and on termite mounds as signposts, according to new research from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO.

CSIRO’s study in the southern Pilbara region of WA used new advances in sample analysis to show how metallic blue crusts, known as manganese crusts, display unique zinc signatures that indicate the presence of other base metals in the surrounding area, reports Technology.org.

The manganese crusts are also found in rock and cave varnishes, making them an easily accessible exploration tool for base metals including nickel and cobalt, which will support the world’s transition to a low emissions future.

Dr Sam Spinks was lead scientist on the research and said CSIRO’s innovative new exploration tools and processes are helping to tackle the global challenge of sustainable energy and resources.

“Australian explorers need new, cost-effective techniques to find the next generation of deposits below the surface,” Dr Spinks said.

“As the world transitions to a low emission future, there’s a need for more nickel and cobalt to build electric vehicles and batteries to store renewable energy.

“We’ve shown that analysing zinc isotopes found in manganese crusts have huge potential to be used to explore for these metal deposits, and others.”

Full report here.

Comments
  1. Chaswarnertoo says:

    But the termites must be eliminated because of their methane output…..

  2. oldbrew says:

    “As the world transitions to a low emission future, there’s a need for more nickel and cobalt to build electric vehicles and batteries to store renewable energy.

    “We’ve shown that analysing zinc isotopes found in manganese crusts have huge potential to be used to explore for these metal deposits, and others.”

    CSIRO analysed termite mounds and soils close to a zinc-lead-silver deposit, comparing this data to samples from elsewhere, to prove the connection.
    – – –
    All sounds a bit desperate when only a tiny percentage of existing vehicles are EVs. They’ll need to hunt down a lot of termite mounds.
    ***************************
    Biomass of termites and their emissions of methane and carbon dioxide: A global database (1996)

    A global database describing the geographical distribution of the biomass of termites and their emissions of methane and carbon dioxide has been constructed.
    . . .
    The global emissions of methane and carbon dioxide are 19.7 ± 1.5 and 3500 ± 700 Mt yr-1, respectively (1 Mt = 1012 g). These emissions contribute approximately 4% and 2%, respectively, to the total global fluxes of these gases.

    https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/96GB01893

  3. tom0mason says:

    oldbrew,
    as far as I know your reference is very similar to the numbers that the UN-IPCC use (probably the same reference) so it does not include in the calculations the ‘Huge 4,000-year-old termite mounds visible via satellite’ ‘A team of researchers have found a vast network consisting of more than 200 million regularly-spaced termite mounds in northeastern Brazil covering an area the size of Great Britain.’ (see https://earthsky.org/earth/huge-ancient-termite-mounds-brazil-visible-via-satellite )
    Also (from https://phys.org/news/2010-09-termites-climate-africa-savannas.html ) 40,000 termite mounds over 192 square miles in the African savanna are gifted with the powers of precognition about variations in climate, or as the title of the piece puts it ‘Termites foretell climate change in Africa’s savannas’

    I wonder if either (or both) of these two other termite colonies are as good at prospecting for rare(ish) metals as they are at producing CO2, methane and maybe predicting long term weather trends?