Evaluation of Simple Amides in the Selective Recovery of Gold from Secondary Sources by Solvent Extraction

Euan D. Doidge, Luke M. M. Kinsman, Yiran Ji, Innis Carson, Andrew J. Duffy, Izabela A. Kordas, Eddie Shao, Peter A. Tasker, Bryne T. Ngwenya, Carole A. Morrison, Jason B. Love*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The recycling of metals from end-of-life secondary sources such as electronic waste remains a significant environmental and technological challenge currently detrimental to the development of circular economies. The complex nature of electronic waste, containing a myriad of different elemental metals, means that sophisticated yet simple separation methods need to be developed in order to recycle these valuable and often critical metal resources. In this work simple primary, secondary, and tertiary amides are appraised as reagents that selectively transport gold from aqueous to organic phases in a solvent extraction experiment. While the strength of extraction of gold from single metal solutions is ordered 3o>2o>1o, the 3o and 2o amides are ineffective at gold transport from mixed-metal solutions of concentrations representative of smartphones due to the formation of a third, dense phase. Increasing the polarity of the organic phase can negate third phase formation but at the expense of selectivity. The identities of the species that reside in the organic and third phases have been studied by a combination of slope analysis, mass spectrometry, NMR spectroscopy, and computational methods. These techniques show that protonation of the amide L occurs at the oxygen atom, resulting in the protonated dimer HL2+ which acts as a receptor for AuCl4− to form dynamic supramolecular aggregates in the organic phase. The characterization of a tin complex in the third phase by X-ray crystallography supports these conclusions and furthermore, suggests the preference for the chelation of the proton by two amide molecules instead of the transport of hydronium into the organic phase and its subsequent use as structural template.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15019-15029
Number of pages21
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering
Issue number17
Early online date30 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • electronic waste
  • recycling
  • supramolecular
  • computational
  • WEEE


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