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Printed circuit boards incorporated in most electrical and electronic equipment contain valuable metals such as Cu, Ni, Au, Ag, Pd, Fe, Sn, and Pb. In order to employ a hydrometallurgical route for the recycling of valuable metals from printed circuit boards, a mechanical pre-treatment step is needed. In this study, the metallic components from waste printed circuit boards have been enriched using a mechanical separation process. Waste printed circuit boards shredded to <10mm were milled using a stamp mill to liberate the various metallic components, and then the milled printed circuit boards were classified into fractions of <0.6, 0.6-1.2, 1.2-2.5, 2.5-5.0, and >5.0mm. The fractions of milled printed circuit boards of size <5.0mm were separated into a light fraction of mostly non-metallic components and a heavy fraction of the metallic components by gravity separation using a zig-zag classifier. The >5.0mm fraction and the heavy fraction were subjected to two-step magnetic separation. Through the first magnetic separation at 700 Gauss, 83% of the nickel and iron, based on the whole printed circuit boards, was recovered in the magnetic fraction, and 92% of the copper was recovered in the non-magnetic fraction. The cumulative recovery of nickel-iron concentrate was increased by a second magnetic separation at 3000 Gauss, but the grade of the concentrate decreased remarkably from 76% to 56%. The cumulative recovery of copper concentrate decreased, but the grade increased slightly from 71.6% to 75.4%. This study has demonstrated the feasibility of the mechanical separation process consisting of milling/size classification/gravity separation/two-step magnetic separation for enriching metallic components such as Cu, Ni, Al, and Fe from waste printed circuit boards.


Jae-Min Yoo, Jinki Jeong, Kyoungkeun Yoo, Jae-Chun Lee, Wonbaek Kim. Enrichment of the metallic components from waste printed circuit boards by a mechanical separation process using a stamp mill. Waste management (New York, N.Y.). 2009 Mar;29(3):1132-7

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PMID: 18835149

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