Electronic recycling

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Electronic recycling involves the extraction of various elements, mainly precious metals or metalloids from waste electronics. Most notably, gold can be extracted from computer parts such as processors.

Overview

E-waste are a good source of materials for the amateur chemist or electronics hobbyist. Useful materials, such as magnets, copper wiring, coils, quartz, Nichrome wiring, aluminium heatsinks, mica sheets, etc. can be found in various scrap electronics. Working components, such as cooling fans, electromagnetic coils, switches, heating elements, relays, LEDs, phone cameras and even functional electronic parts (RAM boards, CPUs, etc.) can also be obtained from e-wastes.

The most known aspect of the electronic recycling is the extraction of precious metals, such as gold, silver, platinum or palladium from various electronic parts, such as computer motherboards, cellphones or old industrial boards. A dedicated recycler can also obtain usable amounts of tantalum, nickel, cadmium, tungsten and other metals or their compounds. Other useful elements that can be obtained are silicon, neodymium, lithium, etc.

Older electronics tend to contain heavy metals, so proper protection should be worn when handling them.

Handling

Safety

Extracting materials and components from scrap electronics carries the risk of injury, since wiring, broken ceramic and glass, connector pins and metal frames have sharp edges or gain sharp edges during the dismantling process. Most old electronic components contain toxic heavy elements, such as lead, antimony, cadmium or even mercury, that can enter the body via dermal contact, breathing, ingestion or through scratches. Always wear thick gloves and wear a mask. Use pliers or tweezers to collect small objects.

Extracting valuable metals from the scrap requires corrosive chemicals such as ferric chloride, acids. The extracting process must be performed in a well ventilated area or outside, while wearing proper protection attire.

Disposal

The leftover boards containing useless components should be taken to electronic recycling centers. Waste solutions must be reduced to less toxic compounds and taken to hazardous chemical disposal centers. DO NOT POUR THEM DOWN THE DRAIN!

Solutions containing copper ions can be reduced to metallic copper with iron, resulting iron solutions which are much less toxic that the copper ones. The copper can be reused.

References

Relevant Sciencemadness threads