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Scottish scientists lead the way with gold recycling breakthrough

Published Wednesday 14th September 2016

A team of Scottish scientists have come up with an effective way of stripping gold out of old computer and smartphone circuit boards.

The University of Edinburgh scientists are aiming to stop gold being sent to landfill by developing a more effective method of recovering it from old electronic circuits. They’ve come up with a mild acid that dissolves all metal parts in the circuit boards and when their specially developed chemical compound is added, they can isolate and recover the gold content.

It’s believed up to seven per cent of the world’s gold stores is inside e-waste such as old phones, PCs and laptops that have been thrown away. The demand for gold for this market is only set to increase as the popularity of smartphones, tablets and laptops shows no sign of diminishing and companies are continually developing newer and better versions of their products.

Around 12 per cent of the world’s gold was being used in electronic gadgets back in 2013, the most recent year there are figures available for. It’s likely the percentage has increased in the three years since.

The team from Edinburgh University’s new extraction method is non-toxic so it ticks the environmentally-friendly boxes too. One of the big issues about gold mining is the cost to the environment, due to the chemicals that are used in getting the precious metals out.

Prof Jason Love from Edinburgh University said: “We are very excited about this discovery, especially as we have shown that our fundamental chemical studies on the recovery of valuable metals from electronic waste could have potential economic and societal benefits.”

Every time you recycle a piece of old, broken or unwanted gold jewellery, you are playing a part in helping to reduce the carbon footprint of the gold industry by making more of the precious metal available to use again. It’s a win-win situation for you …. and the environment.