CLEANTECH CONCEPTS: Goodbye to Cyanide: Green Technique for Metals Separation
We don’t often think about the precious metals inside our electronics and jewelry, and how those metals reached us. Driven by our passion for smart phones and now by growing demand for photovoltaics, precious metals is a booming business, with silver occupying 86% of the market in 2014 and production expected to reach 2 billion ounces by 2019 (in perspective, that is 62 million pounds, or 31,250 tons of silver). The U.S., China, India, Japan, and Russia were the top five consumers of silver in 2014. The downside? Separation of these metals has always required large amounts of cyanide, which if not properly contained, can wreak havoc on the environment.
Now, a century-old Russian firm has developed a less harmful way to separate metal without cyanide. A new “acidless” vacuum distillation process technology separates out the more volatile metal based on difference in vapor pressures rather than through using environmentally harmful acids. The company behind this technology is Russian EZOCM Engineering, established in 1916. Their licensing partner in Italy, IKOI S.r.l., is actively promoting the acidless technology to the world market under the registered trademark ALS.
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