Researchers Are Harvesting Precious Metals From Industrial Waste

Researchers at Kanazawa University in Japan have developed a mechanism to improve the recovery of silver and palladium ions from aqueous acidic wastes.
In an article published in the Chemical Engineering Journal, the scientists said the process they developed involves chemically modifying ultra-small particles of cellulose - an abundant and non-toxic biopolymer - to selectively adsorb silver and palladium ions at room temperature. Adsorption was almost complete at acidic pH with acid concentrations of about 1 to 13% by volume.
"The adsorbent selectively chelated the soft acid silver and palladium cations," said Foni Biswas, lead author of the study, in a media statement. "Of the 11 competing base metals that we tested, only copper and lead cations were adsorbed, but we removed them with ease."
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According to Biswas, the maximum metal ion adsorption was fast compared to other approaches. For silver, a metal which at 11 mmol / g also had much higher maximum adsorption capacities, it only took an hour.
After adsorption, the researchers burned the cellulose particles to obtain elemental silver or palladium powder. The subsequent combustion at a higher temperature converted the powder into pellets. Spectroscopic analyzes showed that the final metal pellets were in metallic rather than oxidic form.
"We then removed almost all of the silver and palladium from real industrial waste samples," said Biswas. "The extraction of pure and elemental metals went just as smoothly as in our test runs."
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