In addition to gold, our smartphone contains 60 other metals, such as cobalt and lithium, which are necessary for the production of batteries for electric cars. That is why researcher Nick Gys is working on a technique to recycle those precious metals from smartphones.
Also 20 milligrams of gold
Nick Gys is affiliated with both the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) and the UAntwerp. His motivation for developing a new technique to recycle valuable metals is obvious. On the one hand, we must focus on green energy, for example with electric cars running on lithium batteries. On the other hand, stocks of lithium and cobalt are shrinking worldwide. So it is important to recycle such metals, to use that lithium and cobalt in the production of car batteries. Furthermore, there is also about 20 milligrams of gold in each smartphone.
Dissolve metal parts in strong acid
What does the technology look like in practice? In a first phase, all parts of a smartphone that contain metals end up in a bath with strong acid. The result is a complex mixture of metal particles. Then it comes down to developing a material to which a specific metal “grips” in order to be able to fish it out of the mixture. The more specific materials, the more selectively valuable metals can be recycled. That is why Nick Gys has one important call to everyone: “Hand in your used smartphone at a collection point. It is a small contribution for you, but a great contribution to the environment. ”