IIT Delhi scientists develop tech to recycle e-waste, recover gold and precious metals

IIT Delhi scientists develop tech to recycle e-waste, recover gold and precious metals

December 10, 2019
Lloyd Fuller

Researchers at the Chemical Engineering Department of the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT-Delhi) have developed an integrated method for the efficient recycling of e-waste to recover precious metals such as gold and silver

The technology, developed by Professor K. K. Pant of Chemical Engineering Department, IIT Delhi carries out laboratory-scale pyrolysis of e-waste followed by recovery of individual metals. It can solve the problem of e-waste disposal as well as generate revenue from e-waste through fuel production and metal recovery. The technology has been developed under the Waste Management program of the Department of Science & Technology (DST).

Pyrolysis converts e-waste into a liquid, gaseous, and solid product. The liquid and gaseous product can be used as fuel while metals are recovered from solid residue. The extraction of metals is being carried out by hydrometallurgy using different leaching agents and, finally, electro-deposition will be used if required for individual metal recovery.

The technology – which will be useful for the waste management sector, electrical and electronic industries and metal producing industry – is under pilot-scale testing and validation. The team is further targeting a design of a 50kg/day capacity e-waste recycler.

A patent for the technology has been filed and the researchers are working on the recovery process of individual metals (copper, silver and gold) and technology transfer to industries. The technology holds great market potential owing to its unique feature of the integrated approach of complete recycling of e-waste, and recovery of precious metals without causing any damage to the environment.

E-waste generated worldwide in 2016 was 44.7 million tons and is expected to grow to 52.2 million tons by 2021. India is the fourth-largest e-waste producer in the world, generating 2 million tons in 2016. The total value of material that can be recycled from global e-waste generated in 2016 was Rs4,670 billion.

However, there is no viable option for the complete recycling of e-waste and therefore there is a need for the development of technology that will be eco-friendly and economical. The risk associated with e-waste recycling is the presence of hazardous substances such as antimony, lead, cadmium, arsenic, brominated flame retardants, etc. The developed process can minimize hazardous effects due to these substances.

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