Researchers at Murdoch University have trialled a new technology they say could “transform” the mining process for platinum, palladium, and other precious metals.
In a statement Dr Chun-Yang Yin and Dr Aleksandar Nikoloski said the new processing technique could cut time and money, and increase the purification of metals.
“Traditional mineral extraction uses a time-consuming two-stage process which sees a mineral leach solution and an extractant vigorously mixed before being transferred to a settler,” Yin said.
“The new microfluidics approach is a single-stage process which sees the leach solution and extractant pumped along two very fine micro-channels embedded in a microchip.”
“This nano-level interplay results in increased surface-to-volume retion and improved metal ion transfer, with 99 per cent of extraction occurring within a single second.”
“This could really transform the purification technology for platinum group metals and the niche minerals industry.”
Yin said the new technique, which had been appropriated from technology in the medical and pharmaceutical industries, could allow companies to reduce plant size and speed up processing.
They also said the process could be used for the purification of rare earth elements.