Gold plating refers to the process in which gold is electrochemically coated on objects. This is done for several reasons, including conductivity and protection of wires and some gold can be found in most electronics, especially large circuit boards. While it is difficult for an amateur to safely and productively extract gold from these electronics, there are recycling companies that specialise in recycling the gold used in plating and there are several well-known ways in which this gold can be retrieved.
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The extractor can burn the material down to isolate the gold and make further extraction simple. Burning is difficult to do professionally, because the circuits and other materials that contain gold tend to be made of metals and plastics which do not burn well and produce toxic fumes. Recycling companies rarely used this method in the United States and amateurs rarely have the means to safely burn and melt circuits without endangering themselves or the environment.
One of the most common methods of extracting gold from plated objects is through a cyanide solution. The cyanide combines with the gold and turns it into metal ions which can then be distilled back into gold in an additional step. While this is useful for dissolving hard-to-reach gold, using cyanide also has problems. Cyanide is a dangerous toxin and extractors need to take great care when using it. The laws concerning the use and disposal of cyanide in America are very strict and must be followed carefully.
Aqua regia is a mix of hydrochloric and nitric acids. These acids are also used to dissolve gold, but do not have the same poisonous effect on the surrounding environment, so they are used more often by larger companies. However, aqua regia is still a highly toxic mixture and creates poisonous gas when it is used, so proper ventilation is very important.
Reverse electroplating is another traditional method of recovering gold plating. In this case, the same ionisation process that was used to attach gold to the surfaces is used to siphon it away again by creating a battery solution and an anode and a cathode with the plating materials. The gold is drawn off to another metallic object and then harvested.
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