The polymer, called COP-180, selectively captures gold after it has been leached from e-waste.

Enlarge / The polymer, called COP-180, selectively captures gold after it has been leached from e-waste. (credit: Yeongran Hong)

One thing holding back e-waste recycling is the actual recycling process itself. We need cheaper, safer, cleaner, or more effective methods of separating and recovering the valuable elements from electronics before we can make the whole endeavor more attractive and profitable. Some current methods use large amounts of energy to melt components down, but chemistry could provide some tempting alternatives.

A new study led by Yeongran Hong of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology involves a chemical with an impressive affinity for gold. Subject some circuit boards to an acid treatment to release its materials and this stuff will gather up all the dissolved gold. And after it lets go of that gold, it’s ready to be used again.

The researchers’ gold-scrubber is based on an organic compound called a porphyrin. Linked together in a polymer, it possesses lots and lots of little pores that, energetically, want to host a metal atom. That’s the kind of structure chemists look for to help with recycling.

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Source:: Ars Technica

      

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