Turning gold green: A new eco-friendly way to recycle metals

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Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have made a big leap forward in recycling metals in an eco-friendly way.

They’ve figured out how to clean and purify metals like gold using biodiesel, a kind of fuel made from leftover materials from forests and paper making.

This method could be a game-changer for an industry that usually relies on a lot of oil.

Gold isn’t just for jewelry or keeping in a safe; it’s in our phones, computers, and even in airplanes.

When it’s time to recycle this gold, it often comes mixed with other metals, which need to be removed.

Normally, this process uses fossil diesel, which can be harmful to the environment.

Fossil diesel production can let out methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and contains toxic substances bad for people and animals.

The Chalmers team, led by Mark Foreman, discovered a way to do this using biodiesel, a much cleaner option.

Biodiesel doesn’t have the harmful substances that fossil diesel does, making it a safer choice for the environment and our health.

Here’s how it works: Gold scraps, like earrings bought from a local pawnshop, are first dissolved in a mix of acids.

Then, using biodiesel and a special chemical made from plants, the gold is separated out clean and pure in just a few steps.

This process not only gets rid of the need for fossil diesel but also replaces other harmful chemicals usually used in gold purification.

What’s exciting is this method isn’t just for gold.

It can also be used for many other important metals like copper, which is used in everything electronic, and rare metals used in batteries and green technologies like wind turbines and electric cars.

Today, about 75% of the world’s copper mining uses fossil solvents, but this new method shows they could switch to biodiesel instead.

This breakthrough is not only a win for recycling metals more cleanly but also for making the whole industry more sustainable.

The team at Chalmers has shown that this green method works for a variety of metals and is now looking to apply it to recycling things like household batteries.

In a world looking for more sustainable solutions, this discovery is a shining example of how we can make significant changes.

By replacing harmful practices with cleaner alternatives like biodiesel, we can protect the environment and move towards a greener future.