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E-waste Recycling March 01, 2024 12:50:59 PM

Cheese Byproduct Transforms E-Waste into Gold

Paul Ploumis
ScrapMonster Author
This innovative approach not only promises to revolutionize gold recovery but also offers a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution to a growing global challenge.

Cheese Byproduct Transforms E-Waste into Gold

SEATTLE (Scrap Monster): In an astonishing leap towards sustainable technology, researchers led by Professor Raffaele Mezzenga at ETH Zurich have developed a novel method to extract gold from electronic waste using a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. This innovative approach not only promises to revolutionize gold recovery but also offers a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution to a growing global challenge.

From Dairy to Gold: The Science Behind the Innovation

The team, including senior scientist Mohammad Peydayesh, has ingeniously utilized denatured whey proteins to create a sponge capable of extracting gold from the acid-dissolved metal parts of old computer motherboards. The method hinges on the proteins' ability to form nanofibrils that adhere to gold ions more efficiently than to other metals. Following the absorption process, the gold ions are reduced to flakes and then melted down to form a nugget. Remarkably, the researchers obtained a 450-milligram nugget of 91 percent pure gold from just 20 motherboards, demonstrating the method's efficiency and potential for scalability.

Redefining Gold Recovery: Economic and Environmental Benefits

Professor Mezzenga's team has not only provided a solution to the technical challenge of extracting gold from e-waste but has also addressed the economic and environmental concerns associated with traditional recovery methods. By employing a byproduct of cheesemaking, the process leverages renewable resources and significantly reduces the need for toxic chemicals and high energy inputs. Moreover, the cost of procuring materials and the energy required for the entire process is 50 times lower than the value of the recoverable gold, making this technology a commercially viable option.

Looking Ahead: Future Applications and Developments

Encouraged by these promising results, the researchers are now focused on preparing the technology for market readiness. They are exploring various sources of gold beyond electronic waste, including industrial waste from microchip manufacturing and gold-plating processes. Additionally, the team is investigating the use of other protein-rich byproducts from the food industry to further enhance the sustainability of their method. Professor Mezzenga's enthusiasm for transforming waste into valuable resources underscores the broader potential of this technology to contribute to a more sustainable and circular economy.

Innovations like these not only challenge our conventional approaches to waste management and resource recovery but also inspire a reimagining of what is possible in the realm of sustainable technology. As we continue to grapple with the environmental impact of electronic waste, solutions that offer both economic viability and ecological sensitivity are invaluable. With further development and commercialization, this groundbreaking method could significantly alter how we recover precious metals, turning waste into a treasure trove of resources.

Courtesy: www.bnnbreaking.com

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