An environmentally friendly way of extracting gold from waste electronics like mobile phones has been discovered by Scottish based chemists. Jim Drury reports.
Up to 7 percent of the world's gold lies abandoned in waste electronics....much of it from dumped cellphones. Its conductivity makes the precious metal an essential component of circuit boards. But extracting gold involves using toxic chemicals like cyanide. Edinburgh University Professor Jason Love's team has developed a compound that does the job simply and cleanly. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR JASON LOVE, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH, SAYING: "We have our nice white compound dissolved in that organic solvent and then you can mix that organic solvent with the metals that you dissolve in water or in acid. When you mix them together you get two layers. Then if you give them a good shake you actually extract all of the gold that you have dissolved in this mixture of mobile phone metals and that goes then into this layer here." Love says the method is inexpensive and could help reduce the negative impact of gold mining and cut CO2 emissions. 300 tonnes of gold are used in electronics every year and that figure will rise. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR JASON LOVE, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH, SAYING: "Everybody wants their latest iPhone or something like this, and so you can see this is an expanding business, and rather than put this into landfill you're much better off trying to recycle these metals, especially gold, which is the most valuable metal in a mobile phone." The new method could be adapted to extract other precious metals. Researchers are in discussions with various commercial companies to scale up the technology.