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Selective recovery of chromium, copper, nickel, and zinc from an acid solution using an environmentally friendly process



Real electroplating effluents contain multiple metals. An important point related with the feasibility of the bioremediation process is linked with the strategy to recover selectively metals. In this work, a multimetal solution, obtained after microwave acid digestion of the ashes resulted from the incineration of Saccharomyces cerevisiae contaminated biomass, was used to recover selectively chromium, copper, nickel, and zinc.


The acid solution contained 3.8, 0.4, 2.8, and 0.2 g/L of chromium(III), copper, nickel, and zinc, respectively. The strategy developed consisted of recovering copper (97.6%), as a metal, by electrolyzing the solution at a controlled potential. Then, the simultaneous alkalinization of the solution (pH 14), addition of H2O2, and heating of the solution led to a complete oxidation of chromium and nickel recovery (87.9% as a precipitate of nickel hydroxide). After adjusting the pH of the remaining solution at pH 10, selective recovery of zinc (82.7% as zinc hydroxide) and chromium (95.4% as a solution of cromate) was achieved.


The approach, used in the present work, allowed a selective and efficient recovery of chromium, copper, nickel, and zinc from an acid solution using a combined electrochemical and chemical process. The strategy proposed can be used for the selective recovery of metals present in an acid digestion solution, which resulted from the incineration of ashes of biomass used in the treatment of heavy metals rich industrial effluents.

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The authors thank to the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) from Portuguese Government for the financial support of this work with FEDER founds, by the Project POCTI/CTA/47875/2002. Manuela D. Machado is also gratefully acknowledged for a grant scholarship financed under the same project and the grant from FCT (SFRH/BD/31755/2006).

The authors also wish to thank Doctor Rui Boaventura from the Faculty of Engineering of Porto University for the use of analytical facilities (microwave digestor). We would also like to thank to one of the reviewers for his/her valuable comments.

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Correspondence to Helena M. V. M. Soares.

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Responsible editor: Elena Maestri

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Machado, M.D., Soares, E.V. & Soares, H.M.V.M. Selective recovery of chromium, copper, nickel, and zinc from an acid solution using an environmentally friendly process. Environ Sci Pollut Res 18, 1279–1285 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-011-0477-5

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  • Chemical precipitation
  • Electrolysis
  • Heavy metals
  • Recycling
  • Selective recovery
  • Chemical speciation