The Chemistry of Computer Part Gold Recovery

Introduction

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I’ve always heard rumors of valuable amounts of gold being in computer parts. My reaction to this idea was something along the lines of “oh that’s cool I guess,” but when I researched the recovery process of reclaiming this gold back into a purer form, I realized that it was doable. All I needed was an excuse to buy the dangerous chemicals that were required to make it work. Mr. Beals gave me that excuse in the form of this project.

Composition of ...

This process requires your basic lab equipment (a couple beakers, a wash bottle, some coffee filters, a funnel, a plastic bucket and a respirator to protect from chlorine gas), and a few select chemicals: sodium hypochlorite (NaClO, or commonly referred to as bleach), muratic acid (HCl, basically just diluted hydrochloric acid), hydrogen peroxide(H₂O₂) and sodium bisulfate(NaHSO).

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

There are 2 main acid baths in this procedure. In the first bath, the hydrogen peroxide and muratic acid corrode away the adhesive attaching the gold flakes to the computer parts. The second acid bath has 2 stages. First, the gold is dissolved into a solution of bleach and muratic acid to create Auric Chloride (Au₂Cl₆). Then, the sodium bisulfate is introduced into the auric chloride to break the bonds in between the gold and the chlorine causing pure gold powder to precipitate to the bottom of the beaker.

Chemistry's Role

There isn't an industry surrounding the process of salvaging tiny amounts of gold out of  computers, as it is laborious and cost ineffective. The majority of people who decide that this is a good use of their time are amateur backyard chemists doing it as a hobby (I’m one of them).

Background Research

There isn't an industry surrounding the process of salvaging tiny amounts of gold out of  computers, as it is laborious and cost ineffective. The majority of people who decide that this is a good use of their time are amateur backyard chemists doing it as a hobby (I’m one of them).

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About the Author
Charlie is Junior at Billings Senior High School. He wants to major in either chemical engineering or aerospace engineering. He hopes to be accepted into the United States Naval Academy as he wants to become a naval officer, an astronaut, and eventually a Mars colonist. He is the Cadet Commander, as well as a cadet Chief Master Sergeant in the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the United States Air Force. He runs cross country in the fall, and explores his creative side year round at his barn in Alkali Creek. At the barn, he is currently working on two main projects: building a 32 foot tall trebuchet starting from trees, and building a (hopefully) working “Hirsch-Farnsworth” nuclear fusion reactor.







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