Exploring the insights and benefits of biomass-derived sulfuric acid activated carbon for selective recovery of gold from simulated waste streams

by Bediako, J. K.; Kudoahor, E.; Lim, C. R.; Affrifah, N. S.; Kim, S.; Song, M. H.; Repo, E.

The surging affluent in society, concomitant with increasing global demand for electrical and electronic devices, has led to a sharp rise in e-waste generation. E-wastes contain significant amounts of precious metals, such as gold, which can be recovered and reused, thus reducing the environmental impact of mining new metals. Selective recovery using sustainable and cost-effective materials and methods is therefore vital. This study undertook a detailed evaluation of low-cost biomass-derived activated carbon (AC) for selective recovery of Au from simulated e-waste streams. Utilizing high-performance synthesized H2SO4-AC, the adsorption mechanisms were explicated through a combination of characterization techniques, i.e., FE-SEM, BET, TGA, XRD, FTIR, XPS, and DFT simulations to conceptualize the atomic and molecular level interactions. Optimization of coordination geometries between model H2SO4-AC and anionic complexes revealed the most stable coordination for AuCl4- (binding energy, E-b = -4064.15 eV). The Au selectivity was further enhanced by reduction of Au(III) to Au(0), as determined by XRD and XPS. The adsorption reaction was relatively fast (similar to 5h), and maximum Au uptake reached 1679.74 +/- 37.66 mg/g (among highest), achieved through adsorption isotherm experiments. Furthermore, a mixture of 0.5 M thiourea/1 M HCl could effectively elute the loaded Au and regenerate the spent AC. This study presents radical attempts to examine in detail, the synergistic effects of H2SO4 activation on biomass-derived ACs for selective recovery of Au from complex mixtures. The paper therefore describes a novel approach for the selective recovery of Au from e-wastes using multifunctional biomass-derived H2SO4-AC.

Waste Management
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