A high productivity bioprocess for obtaining metallic copper from printed circuit boards (PCBs)

Abstract

PCBs constitute a residue rich in metals, among which copper stands out due to its majority content, much higher than that found in natural deposits, so that it is a potential secondary resource. Many attempts have been made to recover copper via biohydrometallurgy because it is an environmentally friendly route, however, one of its main drawbacks is the low productivity achieved. A global process based on circularity for obtaining copper cathodes from PCBs is proposed. First, PCBs from end-of-life mobile phones are shred to sizes between 800 and 2000 µm. Copper is leached from these pieces in a continuous stirred tank reactor (CSTR) at high ferric concentration, at a moderate temperature of 60 °C reaching dissolution rate higher than 1 g/L·h and a yield of 99 %. The solution that leaves the CSTR with concentrations of up to 10 g/L of Cu is passed through a high-performance bioreactor for the regeneration of Fe(III). A biooxidation rate of 1.3 g/L·h was achieved, and no inhibition was observed. Concurrently, copper is recovered in metallic state by solvent extraction and electrowinning with recirculation streams becoming a more profitable and sustainable complete global process.The experimental work was carried out at University of Sevilla, with exception of the research related with electrolysis and collection of EoL mobiles and mechanical pretreatment which was carried out at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and funded by project PID2020-117520RA-I00 of MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033.Peer ReviewedPostprint (author's final draft

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