March 25, 2024 at 2:35 pm

Breaktrhough Technique Extracts Gold From Old Appliances And Could Be Hugely Profitable

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

In the ultimate upcycling move, there seems to be a way to use the cheesemaking process to turn old electronic waste into gold.

And no, your name doesn’t have to be Rumplestilskin to do it.

This team of researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland say they have devised a novel way to extract precious metal from electronic waste. The method is sustainable and based on, of all things, a byproduct from the food industry.

Specifically, they’re using protein fibril sponges, which are protein-rich byproducts from cheesemaking to extract the gold.

For each dollar spent, the coauthor Raffaele Mezzenga thinks they could make $50 worth of gold.

“The fact I love the most is that we’re using a food industry byproduct to obtain gold from electronic waste. You can’t get much more sustainable than that!”

Source: Shutterstock

They published their paper in Advanced Materials, and in it claim that they’ve recovered a 450-milligram, 22-carat gold nugget from 20 old computer motherboards.

They accomplished this by denaturing whey proteins under acidic conditions and high temperatures. This resulted in a slurry of protein nanofibrils, which is then dried to create a sponge.

Once the metal parts of the motherboards are dissolved and ionized, they add the sponge to the solution to attract the gold ions.

Heating the sponge reduces the ions into flakes, when can then be melted into a gold nugget.

Their 450-milligram nugget was 91% percent gold and 9% copper, and would sell for around $33.

The fact that it costs them a 50th of the gold value to go through the process suggests it could be very profitable if scaled up.

The researchers are now looking to market their idea, and are searching for other protein-rich byproducts that could be transformed into sponges.

Not only that, but they’re doing good in the process.

Source: Shutterstock

The World Health Organization says e-waste is the fastest-growing solid waste stream in the world. Without recycling, it’s harmful to both the environment and human beings.

Score one for the humans, I guess.

I’m hoping they’ll eventually tell me I can do all of this with things I already have in my pantry.