Electrochemistry Culminating

Extraction experiment by Melissa Zielonka and Victoria Kowalchuk

Purpose and Steps

For our culminating, the study we decided to complete was an extraction and the purpose of this was to take gold out of old computer and cell phone parts firstly using pure sulfuric acid. We decided to do this because we thought it would be fun and interesting to try an easy way to get gold. We pulled apart the old electronics to find gold fingers to use in our experiment. We then put the gold fingers in cheese cloth and put the cheese cloth in a beaker of sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid ate through the cheese cloth, so then we decided to change the strainer to plastic so that the sulfuric acid would not eat it away. This was not working fast enough, therefore we changed the sulfuric acid to hydrochloric acid to speed up the process.

The class destroying old electronics to find gold fingers.
The cheese cloth holding the gold fingers in the beaker of sulfuric acid.
The new plastic strainer

We put a spinner in the bottom, underneath the strainer with the drained liquid. This was to catch any objects that weren't gold that got through the strainer magnetically, since the objects we didn't want all stuck to the spinner. Once we had little flakes of gold left, we strained the liquid through a paper filter, leaving gold on top in the filter.

The spinner used to attract non-gold materials.
Filtering the gold out using a paper filter.


Our results were not as successful as we had hoped, but we are happy that we still ended up with a little bit of gold. We were expecting to have much more, but because of the many changes we had to make to our experiment like changing the acid used, we did not extract as much as we hoped.

Next Steps

If we were to extend this study, we would put the gold fingers we threw out through the process of letting it sit in the sulfuric or hydrochloric acid for a longer amount of time, and continue to see how much gold we would be able to extract because of the extended time period it would be left in the acid.


Some problems we encountered were:

- using the wrong strainer, which we fixed by then getting a plastic strainer that wasn't destroyed by the acid like the previously used cheesecloth.

- the length of time we put the gold fingers in the acid was too short, therefore to fix this we could have let them sit longer, resulting in more gold in the end.

- finding the proper containers to fit the big plastic strainer in while still having the gold fingers submerged in the acid, which we solved by finding and cutting a container to be the proper size that worked for the experiment.

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