Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Reverse electrolysis system reclaims metals

A Hungarian company has designed and built a novel metal reclamation process for the electroplating industry that can provide its investment return in less than 4 years.
Reverse electrolysis system reclaims metals
Electroplating takes place when objects are placed in a solution called a bath and connected to the negative electrical terminal, and the coating material is connected to the positive terminal. An electrical current is created permitting the atoms of the coating material - the anode - to travel through the solution, and deposit themselves on the cathode. Examples of electroplating technology are chrome plated car bumpers, household cutlery and inexpensive jewellery.

When the production cycle is complete, metal ions from the coating material remain in the bath, and this contamination is known as galvanic sludge deposits. This reclamation process reverses the electrical current so that the anode becomes the cathode, and the metal ions in the solution are able to re-deposit on the coating material. The reclamation equipment recovers 90% of the metal ions from the economy rinsing vats, thus reducing metal loss to just 1-2%.

In addition to the known metals such as gold, silver, nickel, chromium and zinc, this technology can also reclaim chloride and chloride ion free solutions too. The processing system is fully autonomous and an added bonus to this reclamation process is the reduction in galvanic sludge deposits that have to be disposed of. Furthermore, current competing reclamation technologies are uneconomical, but this method uses a concentration of solutions, such that it can make investment returns within 3 to 4 years.

Offering great economical benefits, this environmentally friendly equipment has been already on the market and is subject to continuous development. Apart from firms providing electroplating services, companies that are active in metal processing and/or machinery industry, having an in-house electroplating workshop, could equally employ the technology. A licence agreement is sought.
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