Gold from e-waste could make drug manufacturing more sustainable

In a new study, researchers have shown that the gold from e-waste, such as SIM cards and circuit boards can be extracted and used as catalysts for reactions in pharmaceutical manufacturing.

At first, researchers from the University of Cagliari in Italy developed a process that utilizes environmentally safe reagents to drain soil and recover base metals such as nickel, copper, silver, and gold from soil that has been contaminated by e-waste in landfills. The problem with this process is that the gold produced cannot be re-used in electronics without using a lot of energy and expenses.

This research led a professor at Imperial College London, Chris Braddock, to investigate the process of using the gold metal extracted from electronics instead. Braddock and team tested the gold in a wide range of chemical reactions used for producing and manufacturing pain relief drugs. They discovered that gold was a better catalyst than most, and its re-suable nature makes it sustainable for more production.

Computers contain far more precious metals than mined ore. Re-using gold from electronic waste prevents it from going into a landfill. Using this reclaimed gold for drug manufacture reduces the need to mine new materials.

Extracting those precious metals provides diverse metal components. The extraction process is already in use, which means that those metals, such as gold, can be game changers in manufacturing and industry.

More research is being done to look at the recovery and re-use of palladium found in catalytic converters.

At IoMT Solutions, every hard drive and circuit board we receive is destroyed. This prevents the data from being accessed, but it’s also the starting point to extracting the precious metals that make up the electronics. Our process keeps our client’s equipment from being reused or resold as is, but it creates the opportunity for the raw materials to be reused.

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