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Seafood to empower metal recovery

United Kingdom – Invotec Group, a leading manufacturer of printed circuit boards (PCBs), has joined a project to develop the use of seafood industry waste to recover metals from the effluent generated in PCB and related manufacturing processes.

The UK’s seafood industry generates a large volume of shellfish waste, such as crab shells. The country’s Technology Strategy Board, which has set up the Sustainable Treatment of Waste Using Recycled Chitosans (STOWURC) project, notes: ‘Crab shells are typically expensive to dispose of and this project will enable them to become valuable raw materials.’

In effect, the shells are a source of chitosans – known for their capacity to absorb metals – and so could be used to recover metals found in PCB manufacturing effluent. ‘The UK PCB industry is strategically important to the country but its chemical processes can generate waste products that are expensive to treat,’ adds the Technology Strategy Board.

The chitosans will be evaluated over a range of operating conditions to determine how well they can absorb metals, for instance, copper. Once saturated with copper, it will be desorbed into a solution from which it can be recovered as a metal by electroplating.

‘International interest’

Set to receive a grant of roughly £422 000 (Euro 510 000), the STOWURC project is ‘still in its early stages’ and is planned to run for two years, the Technology Strategy Board points out. The project’s partners say that they have identified ‘international interest’ from PCB manufacturers in using chitosan-based materials and that there are potentially much larger applications in other sectors such as surface engineering and metal finishing.

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