Engineering students extract gold from discarded mobile phones

Bengaluru: Engineering students extract gold from discarded mobiles

October 13, 2021

Students from the Civil Engineering department of MVJ College of Engineering  (MVJCE) have devised method to extract gold, other metals from printed circuit boards of old mobile phones, an initiative that they believe, will reduce the environmental impact of gold mining and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Evaluating that the environmental protection and conservation had taken a backseat with the unforeseen Covid-19 pandemic, students took an initiative to usher in sustainability in the waste management sector and help in providing economic and social benefits – under the initiative, they have devised a method to extract gold from printed circuit boards of old mobile phones. The same method can be used to extract other metals like silver and copper too from e-waste.

Over the last 18 months, the Covid-19 pandemic has induced increased usage of electronic goods from people indoors, according to the college, thus, generating volumes of e-waste as consumers have been upgrading to the newer technologies available in the market.

The students Akshaya G, B Kamala, Chandana MC and Deepthi KV, used aqua regia, a corrosive reagent used to clean glassware and in gold refining processes, for the leaching (extraction of certain materials from a carrier into a liquid) of the precious metal (Gold) from the PCBs of the used mobile phones.

“The recovery of precious metals like gold can be an important secondary source which can be reused in electronic and other industries. Even if there are possible solutions to extract the precious metals and other metals from these electronic components, it is necessary to evaluate the external barriers that are causing the huge gap between waste generation and electronic waste dismantling/recycling,” the students explained.

PCB typically contains various metals including valuable (copper, gold, silver, platinum) and toxic heavy metals (mercury, lead, arsenic). Recycling of end of life mobile devices has the potential to solve many problems including resource depletion, environmental pollution, and landfill disposal.

Anupama, Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, MVJCE Bangalore, said “ By unwinding the complex chemistry supporting the extraction process, the students used a compound method that could be utilized to recuperate gold more adequately. The findings could aid the advancement of techniques for enormous recuperation of gold and other precious metals from waste electronics.”

Students who worked on the project emphasized the value of metals such as gold, silver, and copper, which can be recovered and brought back into the production cycle. They believe that there is significant economic potential in the efficient recovery of valuable materials in e-waste and can provide income-generating opportunities for both individuals and enterprises through this. 

Also read: MVJ College of Engineering students develop an app to meet basic medical needs

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