Precious Metal E-Waste Recovery Techniques Evolves with the Rising Accumulation of E-Waste Worldwide
Electronic wastes contains a massive amount of precious metals, as these metals possess outstanding corrosion resistance, decent electrical conductivity, and better catalytic activity. But the precious metal reserves are falling short in terms of production worldwide. Hence, nowadays, numerous technologies related to the retrieval of precious metals from electronic wastes are being developed.
Electronic waste, which is also called e-waste, refers to discarded electrical or electronic devices. Used electronic devices which are meant for overhaul, recycle, resale, retrieve, and reprocess through material recycling or disposal are considered e-waste. Nowadays, electronic waste is an incipient issue owing to the several elements which are intrinsically perilous and extremely toxic in nature.
E-waste is not only a key waste product in landfills, but enormous amounts of valuable resources are being thrown away. These electronic wastes contains a massive amount of precious metals, as these metals possess outstanding corrosion resistance, decent electrical conductivity, and better catalytic activity. However, the precious metal reserves are falling short in terms of production worldwide. The speedy accumulation of end-of-life products has turned out to be the hefty sources of precious metals.
Evolution of Precious Metals E-Waste Recovery Processes
Today, numerous technologies related to the retrieval of precious metals from electronic wastes are being developed. With time, these recovering technologies have been considerably enhanced. The precious metal recovering technologies have advanced from leaching by cyanide, aqua regia, and chlorine in acid solutions to less pollution agents leaching. Various eco-friendly technologies have been developed, which are obtaining attention in precious metals recycling.
Experts at the Rice University have invented a technique using which precious metals and rare earth minerals can be recycled with a zap of electrical energy. This novel technique is called ‘flash Joule heating,’ which was initially developed to generate graphene from carbon sources such as food waste, has been modified by scientists at the Rice University to recuperate precious metals such as palladium, gold, rhodium, and silver from e-waste.
The research team focused their attention on solving the e-waste problem, and hence discovered this recycling technique. In this technique, old discarded circuit boards from e-wastes are first grinded up into powder, later this powered is zapped with heat of around 3,127 °C (5,660 °F). This evaporates the precious metals, and the vapours are then supplied through pipes into a cold trap in which they re-condense into solid metals. After this, usual filtering techniques can be used to separate particular metals for reuse.
The research team articulates that this technique can recuperate nearly 60% of gold, and around 80% of rhodium, silver, and palladium in a sample. Also, this technique eliminates hazardous heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, chromium, cadmium, and lead, which can percolate into the environment from e-wastes in landfills.
Notably, the scientists state that the technique is highly energy efficient as well as scalable. It uses around 939 kWh/ton of material processed, which is 1/80th the quantity used by commercial smelting and 1/500th that of a blast furnace.
The Bottom Line
Growing prices of precious metals such as silver, gold, and other similar metals is likely to propel the demand for e-waste recovery in the coming years. Moreover, a significant rise in the generation of e-wastes is one of the chief threats to environment, which is projected to boost the demand for precious metals e-waste recovery techniques. Also, there has been a constant integration of progressive technologies in element withdrawal to enhance the extraction of precious metals in the recent years.
As per a report by Research Dive, the growing demand for advanced precious metal recovery processes has augmented the growth of the global precious metals E-waste recovery market. Extracting precious metals from e-wastes is financially profitable and has also led to the significant reduction in the environment pollution across the world. As per the research published in the American Chemical Society’s journal, Environmental Science & Technology, recovering precious metals from e-waste is an environmentally sound practice. Recuperating precious metals by means of e-waste recycling techniques is 13 times economical than pulling out these metals from mines
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