New Technique to Transform Precious Metal Recovery

March 6, 2013 (Source: PhysOrg) — Dr Chun-Yang Yin and Dr Aleksandar Nikoloski said the rising cost of metals such as platinum and palladium made recovery economically and environmentally vital.

Their technique – which was trialled by extracting platinum and palladium from a spent automotive catalyst leach solution – has shown major advantages over conventional methods.

“Traditional mineral extraction uses a time-consuming two-stage process which sees a mineral leach solution and an extractant vigorously mixed before being transferred to a settler,” Dr Yin said.

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“The new microfluidics approach is a single-stage process which sees the leach solution and extractant pumped along two very fine micro-channels embedded in a PYREX microchip.

“This nano-level interplay results in increased surface-to-volume ratio and improved metal ion transfer, with 99 per cent of extraction occurring within a single second.

“This really could transform the purification technology for platinum group metals and the niche minerals industry.”

Dr Yin said the new technique would not only speed up processing, but would allow companies to significantly reduce plant space as compared to traditional methods.

“Microfluidics is an emerging area of science – and our innovations represent an excellent opportunity for Australian researchers and companies to gain a foothold in the area,” Dr Yin said.

“Up until now microfluidics has been used primarily in the medical and pharmaceutical industries, and has never been applied to industrial mineral processing. We’re one of only a very few groups in the world working in this area.”

Dr Yin said the findings represented proof-of-concept and that his group was now interested in partnering with industry to scale up. He added that the new technique could be ideal for the purification of rare earth elements, which are vital commodities for ‘green’ technologies such as hybrid cars and novel batteries.

The research is published in the peer-reviewed journal Minerals Engineering.


  1. This is great technology, imagine for a moment if it can work to remediate heavy metal pollution, or some recycling of our favourite rare earth elements or in my mind sequester those stray ions in my drinking water (uranium and fluoride) control over the elements
    and where they go. the solvent is the carrier. these guys, they are working on the destiny of the elements.
    great work. high volume no. clarity of purpose, effectiveness of application yes.
    someday using technology like this even radioactive waste will be valuable or at least usable. this is Interstellar Space Technology where you have to learn to use what is available and the only thing available is what you have on board and are using to op0erate the ship/fleet/ etc.
    totally excellent. And think of the sourcing for a Port/Shipbuilding Facility This is the face of Nature in Space if we can stay civilized.
    How long my well heeled friend until the first Financing bonds are offered for off planet resource development? I see some others headed this way, for the sheer joy of exploration, Cannot be taken away.
    Time is our enemy
    space hunter.

  2. PS thank you Sean Benson and |P|ro edge for finding and posting this precise chemistry progress for us to view.\

  3. clean as a whistle – thanks for your great insights. These technologies really are amazing and the possibilities are unbound. I will continue to search out and post news highlighting these developments – stay tuned!

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