Innovation: How to salvage valuable metals from old LED bulbs

Canada: Researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed a flowsheet to extract metals, including rare earths and the so-called ‘technology metals’, from discarded light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

The new recycling flowsheet processes use crushing, grinding and other simple physical processes to recover valuable metals in an economic and environmentally safe manner, explains mineral processing engineer Dr Maria Holuszko.

Tests conducted thus far showed that the method works for copper, lead, zinc, silver, lutetium, cerium and europium, as well as gallium and indium. The recovered copper content alone was at 65%, compared with the 30% or 40% copper content usually obtained from ore in traditional mine processing. Meanwhile, the lead content recovered was 6%, zinc was 4.5% and silver was 1 640 ppm.

‘If we can extract the maximum amount of material from e-waste, we would make it easier and safer to recycle,’ Dr Holuszko reports. She describes the urban mining breakthrough as an important next step in keeping industrial and precious metals out of landfills.

Source: Mining Weekly

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