- A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh has published a study in the journal Angewandte Chemie that details a new acid treatment for extracting gold from printed circuit boards, as reported by Forbes.
- The method involves dipping circuit boards in a "mild acid" to dissolve metal components and then adding an "oily liquid" with the team's chemical compound that can extract the gold.
- This work was funded by the U.K.'s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and researchers say it could potentially work for large-scale recovery of gold and other precious metals from electronic waste.
According to the researchers, an estimated 330 tons of gold is used in devices every year and electronic waste may contain up to 7% of the world's supply. Gold can be recovered through existing methods, but it's often not cost-effective to do so because devices contain such small quantities of it. While Apple reportedly recovered almost $40 million worth of gold from old devices in 2015, researchers are still looking for better ways to do it.
The Canadian company Mineworx recently announced that its new HM X-leach formula can recover gold and other metals safely and sustainably, but the process is still more expensive than existing cyanide methods.
As consumers continue to purchase new electronic devices at a rapid rate the challenges of efficient collection and recycling have yet to be solved. This was recently highlighted in Japan's discussion of using e-waste to make Olympic medals in 2020 and will continue to be an issue in the near future.