There’s a fortune to be earned for those disposing of discarded computers and mobiles in a scientific way

Obsolete desktop computers and discarded mobile phones may earn a fortune for those disposing them of in a scientific way.

The Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET) here has succeeded in extracting metals, including gold, from the e-waste that is turning out to be a major threat to environment. Scientists working at the Centre have been able to isolate 150 grams of gold from one tonne of e-waste.

Rate metals

This in rupee terms would amount to over Rs. 4 lakh in the form of gold alone while there were several other rare metals including palladium that were extracted from the e-waste.

The printed circuit boards (PCBs) that constitute the heart of the machines contain over 20 per cent of copper. The Centre’s efforts come close on the heels of the e-waste management and handling rules put in place by the Central government that came into effect from May 1, 2012.

Conversion cost

According to C-MET Hyderabad director T.L. Prakash, the country was presently lacking the technology to isolate metals from the printed circuit boards.

Hence, the conversion cost worked out to around Rs. 800 a gram of gold.

But, once the pilot project on effective recycling of e-waste was launched, the cost could come down significantly in the coming days.

The centre had succeeded in isolating Hafnium, a rare mineral, from electronic and other wastes on a pilot basis. Hafnium, a rare mineral closely resembling Zirconium, is used for liquid rocket thruster nozzles in the manufacture of space craft.

“Major chunk of the mineral which is used in alloys for making space craft is being imported at present. But, the requirements could largely be met once the commercial operations start from September,” Dr. Prakash told The Hindu.

According to him, small addition of Hafnium will increase adherence of oxide material on nickel-based alloys besides making them corrosion resistant.

C-MET which launched a pilot project on separation of Hafnium was successful in separating 320 kg of the rare mineral from two lakh litres of waste.

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