Recovery of Metal Values from Useless Printed Circuit Boards

Mahmoud Rabah1, Mahmoud Mosa2 and Gehan M. Aly3

1Central Metall. R&D Institute, El Tebbin, Cairo, Egypt

2Faculty of Science, Bahna University, Bahna, Egypt

3Benha Factory for Electronics, Banha, Egypt


This study provides a hydrometallurgical method to recover copper, lead, tin and gold from useless printed circuit boards. Metals in the board were leached with different mineral acids. Gold, if present, was first recovered by filtering from the acid solution, washed and polished. Metal salts went into the acidic leachant were separately recovered, washed and dried. These were thermally reduced using carbon to obtain reduced metals. The polymeric base material was found safe for feasible for reuse in the manufacture of new printed circuit boards. Parameters affecting the recovery factor were studied. Results obtained showed that nitric acid was more effective compared to sulfuric or hydrochloric acid. The extent of metals dissolution increases with increase in acid molarity, stoichiometric ratio, temperature and time of leaching. With sulfuric acid, copper dissolved in > 6 M solution at > 75C whereas lead and tin did not. With nitric acid, all metals dissolved on hot conditions whereby tin deposited upon cooling as basic oxide. Lead was separated from copper as chloride. Copper was separated as solid sulfide. The recovered compounds were reduced with hydrogen gas or by carbon at temperatures up to 1000C. A separation factor of 98.4-96.2% was achieved.