Closed-Loop Recycling of Copper from Waste Printed Circuit Boards Using Bioleaching and Electrowinning Processes

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    Abstract

    In the present study, a model of closed-loop recycling of copper from PCBs is demonstrated, which involves the sequential application of bioleaching and electrowinning to selectively extract copper. This approach is proposed as part of the solution to resolve the challenging ever-increasing accumulation of electronic waste, e-waste, in the environment. This work is targeting copper, the most abundant metal in e-waste that represents up to 20% by weight of printed circuit boards (PCBs). In the first stage, bioleaching was tested for different pulp densities (0.25–1.00% w/v) and successfully used to extract multiple metals from PCBs using the acidophilic bacterium, Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. In the second stage, the method focused on the recovery of copper from the bioleachate by electrowinning. Metallic copper foils were formed, and the results demonstrated that 75.8% of copper available in PCBs had been recovered as a high quality copper foil, with 99 + % purity, as determined by energy dispersive X-ray analysis and Inductively-Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry. This model of copper extraction, combining bioleaching and electrowinning, demonstrates a closed-loop method of recycling that illustrates the application of bioleaching in the circular economy. The copper foils have the potential to be reused, to form new, high value copper clad laminate for the production of complex printed circuit boards for the electronics manufacturing industry. Graphic Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3125-3136
    Number of pages12
    JournalWaste and Biomass Valorization
    Volume12
    Issue number6
    Early online date29 Jun 2020
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

    Bibliographical note

    This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

    Keywords

    • Bioleaching
    • Copper recovery
    • Electrowinning
    • Printed circuit boards
    • Recycling
    • WEEE

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Environmental Engineering
    • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
    • Waste Management and Disposal

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