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Copper recovery from scrap as school project

Q. Hello,I wanted to know the steps involved in copper recovery from scrap materials and the chemistry behind them. I looked into a lot of websites but got nothing specific. I need this information cause I'm planning to do a project using scrap from cars, etc. Thank you for your time. Have a good day.

Donna A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
student - Bangalore, Karnataka, India
May 1, 2008

A. Hi, Donna. I am not completely sure that I understand your project, but if I do --

Copper will spontaneously plate itself out onto steel or iron. Please look into the science experiment of spontaneous copper plating on an iron nail by immersing it in copper sulphate. Decades ago, in a more polluted and lower population age, scrap automobiles would sometimes actually be stripped of their paint, then placed in polluted streams to capture dissolved copper this way.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
May 1, 2008

Copper recovery from copper plating

Q. I'm currently on a school project for the secondary school examinations with a group, and we're trying to search a way to recover copper deposits from a copper plate.
-Do we need any solution to do this? If yes, which one?
-Is there any other way to do this? If yes, which one?
Please help me if you can. Thank you.

Kevin Lagnel
Student - Yainville, France
January 4, 2016

A. Hi Kevin. Remember that solid copper metal is usually not considered a pollutant or toxic material (although, of course, it depends on your definitions) whereas dissolved copper ions are certainly a toxic pollutant. So your first step is to make sure that your cure isn't worse than the disease :-)

Copper can be de-plated and replated with sulfuric acid.

Or it can be removed with hot sulfuric acid plus peroxide, and the peroxide allowed to decompose so the copper can subsequently be electroplated out of the sulfuric acid. This second approach probably has the advantage of not dissolving much iron into the plating solution.

Please remember that just because you can read how to do something doesn't mean a secondary student can safely do it. Review it all with your science teacher before you actually attempt it. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
January 2016

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