Introduction: How to Extract Gold From Electronics

Picture of How to Extract Gold From Electronics

In this Instructable, I will show you how to extract gold from computers using products most people have lying around in their homes.

The way I extract the gold is relatively straight-forward and pretty easy, but the chemicals used are very dangerous and should not be performed without proper knowledge and equipment.

This process is not supposed to be lucrative. It is a great science project. So don't try to make money off of this process. You will end up losing money!!

Also, please remember if you like this Instructable, please vote for me. I work very hard and spend a lot of time to make these Instructables. It would truly mean a lot. Thanks and Enjoy!

Step 1: WARNING: Hazardous Chemicals Used

Picture of WARNING: Hazardous Chemicals Used

Although this method of gold extraction calls for household chemicals, that doesn't mean they are safe. Please be advised that you must handle these chemicals with care. Goggles, gloves, glass apparatus and a very well ventilated room with a fume hood (and a gas mask/respirator are needed as well) or an outside area is highly recommended.

After this experiment is over, I will show you how to properly dispose of the chemicals. You should know before starting this experiment, you must set up an appointment with a hazardous waste processing facility or H-MRF.

DO NOT POUR DOWN SINK OR TOILET. YOU MUST FOLLOW THE STEPS ABOVE, OR RISK BREAKING LAWS WITH HARSH FINES AND EVEN JAIL TIME IF YOU ARE CAUGHT.

PLEASE BE CAREFUL.

If you have any question regarding the safety of this experiment, please ask me through comments or a PM before performing any of this experiment.

Step 2: Acquire Apparatus, Chemicals, Materials and Safety Equipment

Picture of Acquire Apparatus, Chemicals, Materials and Safety Equipment

Safety first:

1) Goggles

2) Rubber Gloves

3) Gas Mask/Respirator (not needed if performing outside)

4) A Well Ventilated Area (outside or in a room with a fume hood)

Now for the apparatus:

1) One Glass Beaker (thick plastic cups should suffice, but glass is better). Styrofoam and paper will not work.

2) Coffee Filter

3) Scissors

4) Two Plastic Cups

5) A Large Soda Bottle (for the proper disposal of the chemicals after experiment)

And last but not least, the chemicals:

1) Toilet Bowl Cleaner (must contain hydrochloric acid). If you have lab grade hydrochloric acid, by all means use it. Can be found at Home Depot, most home improvement stores and plumbing supply stores. HAZARDOUS; do not ingest or get in eyes and mucous membranes.

2) Hydrogen Peroxide. Can be found at CVS pharmacy as it is used as an antiseptic. HAZARDOUS; do not ingest or get in eyes and mucous membranes.

3) Water will be used at the end of the extraction process.

Step 3: Prepare Electronics for Gold Extraction

Picture of Prepare Electronics for Gold Extraction

In this step, you will need to take your electronics device and pull out any PCBs from it. On the PCBs, look for gold color.

When you find gold, strip all components off the PCB.

If necessary, break the PCB in order to fit it into beaker.

Step 4: Clean Off PCBs

Picture of Clean Off PCBs

In this step, you should rinse off your PCBs under water and dry thoroughly.

Step 5: Create Your Etching Solution

Picture of Create Your Etching Solution

In this step, you take the hydrogen peroxide and toilet bowl cleaner and mix equal parts of each with enough total solution to be able to fully submerge PCBs. After the solution has been made, drop the PCBs in and make sure they are fully submerged.

This solution is called an etching solution because the solution made above dissolves the nickel under the gold. as a result, the gold foils are detached from the nickel because it has been dissolved.

If keeping outside, I recommend putting a large cup with holes in it so the fumes can escape and contaminates don't enter the solution.

WARNING: This is the most hazardous part as tiny amounts of chlorine gas are released (depending on he concentrations of the chemicals used. I am using 3% hydrogen peroxide and the toilet bowl cleaner is 9.5% hydrochloric acid.). Make sure you are outside or in a very well ventilated area with the right safety equipment.

Step 6: Wait for It

Picture of Wait for It

In this step, all you have to do is wait for the gold foils to come off the PCB. Once you see all the gold foils floating around, wait one more day to make sure all nickel is actually off the gold foils.

This process takes a few days at most.

Step 7: Extract the Gold Foils

Picture of Extract the Gold Foils

In this step, you will need a large soda bottle that will collect all etching solution (even if it is diluted with water, it still must go into the bottle for proper disposal). Then, you should remove the PCB and scrape off any gold still attached to the PCB (you should be wearing gloves if performing this step by hand) and fully submerge it into a cup of water.

Then, add some add some water to the existing solution full of gold (I recommend doubling the amount of solution with water. Also, if you need more capacity to hold the solution, a big plastic cup should do.).

After you thin out the solution and the gold foils have settled to the bottom, pour out a little of the solution (while keeping the gold at the bottom) into a your large soda bottle. Add some more water and repeat many times until the solution is thin enough to go through a coffee filter.

DO NOT POUR DOWN SINK OR TOILET. YOU MUST FOLLOW THE STEPS ABOVE, OR RISK BREAKING LAWS WITH HARSH FINES AND EVEN JAIL TIME IF YOU ARE CAUGHT.

Step 8: Filter Out Gold Foils

Picture of Filter Out Gold Foils

In this step, pour your solution containing the gold into the coffee slowly (make sure your coffee filter is over a cup). Be careful not to rip the filter or you will have to start the filtration process over again.

Also, if the water the stripped PCBs are submerged in has gold foils floating around, pour that into the filter, too.

After filtering out all the gold, pour out the excess water into your hazardous waste bottle that will be disposed of properly, and continue to run regular water through the filter to clean the gold.

Make sure all water that is mixed with the etching solution is contained in your bottle that must be disposed of properly in the next step.

DO NOT POUR DOWN SINK OR TOILET. YOU MUST FOLLOW THE STEPS ABOVE, OR RISK BREAKING LAWS WITH HARSH FINES AND EVEN JAIL TIME IF YOU ARE CAUGHT.

Step 9: Remove the Gold Foils Sticking to the Coffee Filter

Picture of Remove the Gold Foils Sticking to the Coffee Filter

In this step, turn your coffee filter inside out over a cup and add a little water to the top. This pushes the gold foils off the filter and into the cup.

Then, wait for the gold foils to settle to the bottom and get as much water out. After that, you could wait for the water to evaporate out and you are left with just gold. However, the gold foils tend to stick to the cup, so I keep mine in a glass vial with some water.

Step 10: Dispose of Hazardous Wastes Properly

In this step, package your etching solution in a bottle with a very tight cap (if using chemical concentrations higher than what I've used, package in glass bottle. Otherwise, plastic is fine.). Label the bottle and make sure it clearly says HAZARDOUS, DO NOT DRINK OR OPEN in huge letters all over the bottle. Tape the cap with masking tape so people, if they get ahold of it, don't open it. Also, keep away from anyone else, especially young children, or any other bottles of the same kind.

Also, take PCBs and put them in a plastic bag and put into trash. These are fine to put in the trash if you have followed previous step of soaking them in a cup of water. If not, please soak in water before disposing.

After properly packaging, take to your nearest hazardous waste processing facility or H-MRF. These facilities are only by appointment and sometimes, depending on where you live, charge a fee (around $5 in most places that are government run. I don't know what the fee is for privately run facilities.).

DO NOT POUR DOWN SINK OR TOILET. YOU MUST FOLLOW THE STEPS ABOVE, OR RISK BREAKING LAWS WITH HARSH FINES AND EVEN JAIL TIME IF YOU ARE CAUGHT.

Step 11: Enjoy the Gold

Picture of Enjoy the Gold

You are now very rich!!!

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this Instructable. Enjoy!!!!

Comments

AntonioH41 (author)2017-12-15

HELLO very good info but how much gold is the rating from each PC mother board example.?

TC33 (author)2017-12-04

This is the first at home gold refining process that I have ever seen that is easy to understand and straight to the point. I'm going to try it. It's like making coffee or making weed oil , just its making gold. I hope. Excellent tutorial ,

Ludvic (author)2014-08-14

Sorry but in this process you don't extract gold, the only solution can dissolve gold is aqua regia (nitric acid, and hydrogen peroxide)

DoctorBobPetersen (author)Ludvic2014-08-14

he's not dissolving the gold, he's dissolving the nickel from underneath the gold, nickel which IS dissolved by Hydrochloric or Hydriodic acid. The gold plate is left free of the substrate. Not a viable money-making process at this volume unless you manage to find your chemicals for free-otherwise financially you'd be better off picking grains of gold out of sand at the beach. Still entertaining and educational though!

I am doubtful that the hydrochloric acid content of a toilet cleaner, even boosted with hydrogen peroxide is strong enough to dissolve much nickel, I believe just the copper has dissolved. I would love to check this but I have never seen Lysol for sale here in Oz.

JohnathanW15 (author)Light_Lab2017-07-28

how about pool acid? aka 30% hcl for adjusting the ph in pools... aka (idioticly and archaicly) muriatic acid

jexy9 (author)Light_Lab2014-08-17

a really common and easy source of hydrochloric acid is concrete cleaner. Get it from any hardware. But be warned, at 33% this a lot stronger than toilet cleaner and strong enough to eat your hands off. In Aus it is mainly phosphoric acid used as toilet cleaner.

ProjectPlace (author)Light_Lab2014-08-17

About a year ago, I was looking at a cross section diagram of a PCB showing the layers of metal. If I remember correctly, touching the PCB was copper, then nickel, then the gold on top. I could be wrong.

However, after the gold was removed, copper was visible and no nickel was visible on the gold. So, either the etching solution dissolved some copper, but not all of it and there was no nickel to begin with. Or, the nickel in between the copper and gold was dissolved.

Thanks for commenting!

I left this sit for a long time but it keeps worrying me that in this world of vanishing chemists this little slip of misinformation from Dr.Bob might just get someone off course.
Some Nickel Oxides dissolve in hydrochloric acid but Nickel metal doesn't, in fact Ni's resistance to HCl is very important to industry: http://www.nickelinstitute.org/~/Media/Files/TechnicalLiterature/ResistanceofNickelandHigh_NickelAlloystoCorrosionbyHydrochloricAcid_HydrogenChlorideandChlorine_279_.pdf
I will leave aside the issue of acid getting through the gold to reach the nickel; but it is important to realize much, perhaps most gold plating is directly on the copper, particularly on older circuit boards.

AliA206 (author)Light_Lab2015-12-11

Merhaba maden altin oksijenle eritilir ken içine neler atilmali

d_j_h (author)DoctorBobPetersen2014-08-17

Actually HCl + H2O2 will dissolve gold. The peroxide acts as an oxidiser (HCl is a non-oxidising acid) and the free chlorine will dissolve some gold into solution. The presence of copper which is higher in the reactive series of metals will subsequently drop the gold as a fine dust. You'd be better to use the HCl + H2O2 with copper to create cupric chloride first, then one the free peroxide is used up, use that solution to dissolve the copper without losing any gold.

Light_Lab (author)Ludvic2014-08-17

Aqua Regia is made from nitric acid and hydrochloric acid and is dangerous enough. Mixing nitric acid and hydrogen peroxide is super hazardous DON'T DO IT: http://www.solvaychemicals.us/SiteCollectionDocume...

Aqua Regia is the only acid that will dissolve gold but there are quite a few non-acids that will dissolve gold. The industry uses cyanide and/or mercury to extract trace gold from ore but these are both intensely poisonous and should not be tried at home. Even if you do it safely you have to ultimately dispose of the waste chemicals safely for the environment.

Back in the 70's I extracted the gold, copper and solder from from about a 100Kg of salvaged circuit boards. Even with the thicker gold used in those days I didn't get enough total return to cover the total cost of the processing. As I recall we got more return from the copper and other scrap metals than we did from the gold, still not nearly enough to make a profit.

Ohtaror (author)Light_Lab2014-08-17

The 'industry' doesn't use mercury anymore. It's still used in Africa and South America by locals, but any serious company will stay far away from mercury during gold leaching.

Anyway, chlorine gas is indeed nothing to play with, it's a real killer. And as said before, you better go for pure HCl, those toilet cleaners are not as pure and are thus less predictable.

@OP, any idea how pure your gold is? And have you calculated your net profit, because I suspect your chemicals might be too expensive.

Light_Lab (author)Ohtaror2015-03-31

I have been involved with the gold Industry for 56 years, and for a good part of that time I was designing gold production technology specifically to reduce the use of mercury and cyanide; both significant environmental concerns in my country. While free mercury use has markedly decreased since the 60's there are still table sluices in common use with mercury amalgamated with copper. The common urban myth is that mercury is totally safe as an amalgam. The issue is made more complicated by various agencies that only recognize gold assays made with an outdated standard method involving mercury. When the industry is totally free of mercury you will hear me cheer!

I don't recall saying anything about chlorine gas???

Ohtaror (author)Light_Lab2015-04-01

Chlorine gas comment was not specifically for you, just a general warning.

I don't know of any professional company still using mercury or amalgam alloy (which is indeed equally toxic). As far as I know they all use cyanide, because it's much cheaper as well. But that stuff is certainly not a DIY project. Feel free to share information on companies still using the amalgamation method.

The cupellation part of the fire assay is done with a lead, not sure where mercury is involved, except if it was already present in the ore?

Ohtaror (author)Ohtaror2014-08-17

Apparently OP answered this question below, sorry.

(22-23 carat = 90-95% gold)

seniornovice (author)Ludvic2014-08-17

you might want to re-think your definition of "aqua regia" .

jeff.ladd1970 (author)Ludvic2014-08-17

You are not dissolving the gold. You are dissolving the other substances and will be left with gold. That gold can then be sold.

Mr.OduroK (author)2017-06-27

Can i use TOILET Bowl cleaner which contain hydrochloric acid 9g & 5percent nonionic surfactants as insist of 9.5g...

CliffordK2 (author)2017-03-26

I have some ingots of brass containing gold! Is there a method to remove the gold?

pjousma (author)2017-01-30

Did it! used 9.5% hydrochloric acid and 12% hydrogen peroxide. Gold is still somewhat contaminated but I guess a good smelter would be able to get those last slacks out.

plumberHomeBd (author)2016-12-23

h'i i'm md.sumon from bangladesh

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-16

Here is pH 8 EDTA-NH3 with ammonia chloride and sodium chloride with 0.1 m/L EDTA. It should if Nickel was present when added slowly would have turned purple. This did not happen.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-15

Had 10 ml exact of gold chloride with 10 ml of 0.1 EDTA Lye which gives min concentration of gold ions of 0.097 g or 97.33 mg gold ion.

3NaEDTA + Au+3 >>> Au(EDTA)3 + 3Na.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-15

5 g per L. of gold chloride. 100 ml gives 0.5 g gold chloride reacting with 100 ml of 0.1 moles or 0.01 moles EDTA* 292.24 g/ mole = 2.9 g EDTA of sodium. Done with accurate graduated flasks 100 ml.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-15

Gold ions with EDTA form a gold yellow color. Please see below. Nickel would have turned purple with ammonia hydroxide and 10% ammonium chloride with sea salt and EDTA.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-15

When mixed with 5% acetic acid... and protocol is to use EDTA with lye to test for Nickel no purple color occured when 1 ml of Gold acetate and other stuff plus 6 ml of lye-edta was mixed. If 0.1 g of Nickel or greater was present then the solution would have turned purple it did not.

SHOE0007 made it! (author)2016-11-10

Here is what happens if gold sodium solution that converts into AuCl3 reacts with sodium carbonate.

2AuCl3(aq) + 3Na2CO3 (s) >>>>> Au2(CO3)3 +6 NaCl.

There is also excess acid HCl.

HCl + Na2CO3 >>> CO2 + H20 + NaCl.

A final solution of black gold (III) carbonate is formed.

Like always it will be sent to a waste center.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-08

Here what happens when steel wool is soaked in mostly copper the gold is nearly gone. It turns copper color. Then I will attempt to use electro plating to convert with a silver coin and sodium per carbonate into silver copper iron plate on the stainless steel wool. At least that is what I am trying to do.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-08

I should view this on my microscope at 40x.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-08

Here is a image that i think abosrbs some gold and copper from the solution.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-08

Stainless steel wool reacting in 5-10% HCl with gold chloride makes gold metal that deposits onto the iron.

Chemical formula in excess HCl.

AuCl3(aq) + Fe(S) >>> Au(S) + FeCl3(aq).

SHOE0007 made it! (author)2016-11-05

Has anyone thought of etching gold onto stainless steel. I have made several different types of gold acid solution. I weaken the solution by diluting with tap water in half. Then I add thin stainless steel sheets that can be cut by scissors.

Here are some results in 12 hours of acid dunking.

AS USUAL BE VERY CAREFUL WITH 20-25% HCL + GOLD SALTS AND CAREFUL WHEN DILUTING AS IT IS AN POWERFUL ACID (HCL 12.5% APPROX).

SHOE0007 (author)2016-04-19

I am using mold (Penicillium italium) under UV light to absorb Nickel compounds from soil and sugars. This will take several months to bioremediate!!! Then I will send them to a hazardous waste disposal site just incase the nickel salts are not absorbed by the mold.

The mold will most likely absorb the heavy metals.

Dravenumbra (author)SHOE00072016-10-20

I like the idea, but you're going to take a long time to get very little heavy metals out.

Consider a bigger step in the same direction. Instead of fungi, use cereal grains. Plants like oat and wheat pull in a lot of toxic metal salts like nickel and cobalt. Large scale land detoxification is often done by planting food vegetation, and torching the plants once they've grown fully. Once they've become large plants, cut them down and torch them in an enclosed space like a furnace. The metals will be left in the ashes. Very easy to dispose of and it will take about the same amount of time. Just a thought

Jaspernasr (author)SHOE00072016-10-20

Can you email me a detailed explanation through email? Lol sounds interesting Jaspernasr@gmail.com

Quester55 (author)2014-08-17

All of this sounds fun, Right?, & Yes it does work & You'll end up with a few Micro Grams of gold. In order to make an Ounce of gold using this method, you'll need about 2-tons of Pcb Panels & believe me, Someone's Attention will be drawn to your little bit of fun!

As a Science Project, this entire Project could earn you an "A", As a way of Making a profit, I'd sooner Pull the Claws off " Living Grizzlies ", Than Face the E.P.A. Clones, when they get wind of it!

Sorry to through a Wet Blanket on your Idea.

Dravenumbra (author)Quester552014-09-06

I do this. I recover Palladium, Gold, and Silver in similar methods for use in my jewelry business. Dumping the waste acid is against EPA regulations while there is still copper, iron, and lead suspended in the acids. Neutralizing the acids can pull most of the toxic materials out of the waste liquid. Electroplating the metals out of the neutralized fluid does even better, and also allows you a little extra to scrap to recover costs. I've recovered $4,800 in precious metals from junk computer parts and spent $35. Sorry to THROW a Wet Blanket on your negativity. Good day.

dude u rock im getting into what ur doing anyway i could chat with u some time ask a few questions im a total noob i feel but i definetly see some money to be made especially if u browse ebay and know what to look for or what ur actually looking at that being how much gold is actually there ive bought 2 decent lots definetly could use a little help and or a few tips if ur not to busy

Lol did you do it yet? How much did u make?

DaveS215 (author)Dravenumbra2016-08-31

Hey man that's what I'm looking at doing.. Bunnies g's has muriatic acid.. And Coles has peroxide.. What percentage peroxide do I use..?

DaveS215 (author)DaveS2152016-08-31

Sorry... Bunnings

sbowman10 (author)Dravenumbra2014-11-08

Dravenumbra- awesome rebuttal to someones Wet Blanket sarcasm!

RonC64 (author)2016-05-14

Its cost effective if you obtain the actual chemicals from a supply house.it takes time and effort to collect enough scrap to get a significant amount,however you can get old electronics for free.also i have found many chemical supply houses also sell the pyrex and safety equipment fairly cheap.i can get a face shield,fullbody apron and gloves for around $35-40.no excuse for not being safe!

SHOE0007 (author)2016-03-26

I think that Nickel is highly unlikely to be in circuits since it does not conduct electricity as well as copper. Most nickle solutions with high HCl are yellow-green however copper chloride made when some copper reacts with HCl is green. The higher the HCl concentration the more intense green color it will be.

Here is a conductivity chart.

http://www.tibtech.com/conductivity.php

SvenIronhand (author)SHOE00072016-04-11

On cellphones the layers as far as I know are first copper then a nickel layer then the gold.

FrancescoP3 (author)2016-04-02

You can also use ammonium persulfate, it is selled relatevely cheap as a pcb etchant.

I'm trying it right now, probably I'll make an instructables in the future

SHOE0007 (author)2016-03-26

Here is a MSDS link for gold acetate Au(CH3COO)3. It is suppose to be brown but with impurities and water it can turn into a red-brown liquid.

https://us.vwr.com/assetsvc/asset/en_US/id/16156126/contents

SHOE0007 (author)2016-03-26

My gold complex when exposed to sodium or potassium hydroxide forms black green gold color solid. Acetic acid 5% is added to make gold (III) oxide and gold acetate. Red color on the acetate solution is gold and nickel. 5% nickel and 95% gold from a cell phone.

Always discard wastes properly through Hazardous Waste Site.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-03-14

I wonder what happens when super complex gold molecules mix with oxygen???

NaAuCl4 (aq) + O2 (aq) (very short duration) >>> Probably nothing

a couple of days with normal water exposure probably does something like this

Na(AuCl4) + H20n (aq) >>>> Na(AuClH20n1Cl2H20n2)

where n1 = 1 to 5 water molecules each.....

So complex it mind boggling!!

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Bio: Hi. I'm Jacob, a high school student interested in science and math. I like to build many different sorts of contraptions and perform experiments ... More »
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