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Whey Protein Sponges Can Be Used To Extract Gold From E-Waste

E-waste is a major issue for the planet, and your storage closet, seriously you’re never going to need those parts or those cables, recycle them. As it’s such a big issue, a lot of time is spent trying to alleviate it in the form of reusing or recycling, though many of these methods are expensive and require a lot of power. Now though a new more efficient method for this has been discovered and involves whey protein, the byproduct of dairy.

Whey Protein To Extract Gold

As shared by Toms Hardware, Scientists have discovered a way of utilising whey protein to extract the gold from e-waste which also has the benefit of reducing the energy cost of this process by 50x lower than the value of the gold extracted. For some more specific numbers, the team claimed they could “extract around 450mg of gold from 20 motherboards” with this method.

So how does this work, well from Scientist Raffaele Mezzenga from the Department of Health Sciences and Technology, the method involves creating an organic sponge from the whey proteins which has been found to be very good at extracting metals from electronic components. The proteins are denatured under an acidic bath and high temperatures to turn them into a gel which is then dried to form a sponge.

The e-waste then has to be prepared, first, it is dissolved in an Acid bath which ionizes the metals, and then the sponge is placed into this metal ion solution. The metals then attach to the protein sponge almost like a magnet. The sponge is then heated to a temperature where the metal ions turn into flakes and can be removed from the sponge easily. It is also noted that this method does grab more than just gold, but it is most effective with gold.

This is an impressive bit of science and a fantastic step forward for e-waste recycling especially due to its lower costs. In the report, which you can read here, it is stated that “the total cost associated with recovering 1 g of gold from e-waste using AF aerogel, encompassing both material and process expenses, amounts to 1.1$. Given the prevailing market value of ≈ 50$ per g for 22-carat gold, these findings emphasize the economic advantage of recovering gold from e-waste using AF aerogel”

This technology can really make a change in how we deal with E-Waste and whilst also doing great things for the environment, there’s also some good money to be made here. The scientists behind this wish to develop the technology to be sold on the market but there isn’t yet a date for this

Jakob Aylesbury

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