Picasso‘s favourite pigment could in the future recycle metals out of your mobile phone

Enlarge / A brand new technique helps get well gold from E-waste at a better fee than it may be extracted from recent ore.

Reiko Matsushita/Shinta Watanabe

Gold and sure different treasured metals are key substances in laptop chips, together with these utilized in client electronics comparable to sensible telephones. But it may be tough to get well and recycle these metals from digital waste. Japanese researchers have discovered {that a} pigment broadly utilized by artists known as Prussian blue can extract gold and platinum-group metals from e-waste rather more effectively than standard bio-based absorbents, in line with a current paper printed within the journal Scientific Reports.

“The quantity of gold contained in a single ton of cell phones is 300-400 grams, which is way increased by 10-80 occasions than that in a single ton of pure ore,” the authors wrote. “The different parts have the same scenario. Consequently, the restoration of these treasured parts from e-wastes is rather more efficient and environment friendly when in comparison with their collections from pure ore.”

Prussian blue is the primary trendy artificial pigment. Granted, there was as soon as a pigment often called Egyptian blue utilized in historical Egypt for millennia; the Romans known as it caeruleum. But after the Roman empire collapsed, the pigment wasn’t used a lot, and ultimately the key to the way it was made was misplaced. (Scientists have since discovered recreate the method.) So earlier than Prussian blue was found, painters had to make use of indigo dye, smalt, or the expensive ultramarine produced from lapis lazuli for deep blue hues.

It’s believed that Prussian blue was first synthesized by chance by a Berlin paint maker named Johann Jacob Diesbach round 1706. Diesbach was attempting to make a purple pigment, which concerned mixing potash, ferric sulfate, and dried cochineal. But the potash he used was apparently tainted with blood—one presumes from a minimize finger or comparable minor damage. The ensuing response created a particular blue-hued iron ferrocyanide, and ultimately got here to be known as Prussian blue (or Berlin blue).


The earliest identified portray to make use of Prussian blue is at present Pieter van den Werff’s Entombment of Christ (1709), however the recipe was printed in 1734, and Prussian blue was quickly widespread amongst artists. Hokusai’s well-known art work, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, is among the many most well-known works to make use of the pigment, together with Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night and most of the work from Pablo Picasso’s “Blue interval.”

Pablo Picasso's <em>La Soupe (The Soup)</em>, from the artist’s Blue interval, makes in depth use of Prussian blue.” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.internet/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/prussianblue2-640×502.jpg” width=”640″ peak=”502″ srcset=”https://cdn.arstechnica.internet/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/prussianblue2.jpg 2x”/>Enlarge <span class=/ Pablo Picasso’s La Soupe (The Soup), from the artist’s Blue interval, makes in depth use of Prussian blue.

The pigment has different makes use of. It’s typically used to deal with heavy metallic poisoning from thallium or radioactive cesium as a result of its lattice-like community construction—much like a jungle gymnasium—can lure metallic ions from these metals and stop them from being absorbed by the physique. Prussian blue helped take away cesium from the soil across the Fukushima energy plant after the 2011 tsunami.  Prussian blue nanoparticles are utilized in some cosmetics and it is utilized by pathologists as a stain to detect iron in, for instance, bone marrow biopsy specimens.

So it is a very helpful substance, which is why the Japanese authors of this newest paper determined to discover different potential sensible functions. They analyzed how Prussian blue uptakes multi-valent metals—like platinum, ruthenium, rhodium, molybdenum, osmium, and palladium, amongst others—utilizing x-ray and ultraviolet spectroscopy. They had been shocked at how nicely the pigment retained its jungle-gym construction whereas substituting iron ions within the framework—the key to its spectacular uptake effectivity in comparison with bio-based absorbents. That’s nice information for e-waste recycling.

Prussian blue might additionally clear up one of many challenges of disposing of nuclear waste, in line with the authors. Current follow entails changing radioactive liquid waste right into a glass-like state at a reprocessing plant, previous to disposal. But platinum-group metals can accumulate on the partitions of the melters, ultimately inflicting an uneven distribution of warmth. So the melters have to be flushed after every use, which in flip will increase prices. Prussian blue might take away these deposits without having for flushing the melters after each use.

DOI: Scientific Reports, 2022. 10.1038/s41598-022-08838-1  (About DOIs).

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