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Evaluation of Aspergillus niger and Penicillium simplicissimum for their ability to leach Zn–Ni–Cu from waste mobile phone printed circuit boards


In this research, Zn, Ni, and Cu recovery from mobile phone printed circuit boards was investigated. The initial pH and pulp density using Aspergillus niger or Penicillium simplicissimum fungi were optimized to improve the recovery of Zn, Ni, and Cu using a central composite design. Fungi were able to recover 97% of Cu. Often for Ni recovery, A. niger was more effective, but in low pulp densities and low pH, P. simplicissimum was preferred. For recovery of Zn, A. niger is more appropriate at pH lower than 6, but P. simplicissimum outperforms at pH higher than 6. Under the optimum conditions (pulp density of 4 gL−1 and initial pH 10), the respective recovery of Cu, Ni, and Zn was determined as 94%, 100%, and 100% using A. niger as well as 100%, 95%, and 87% using P. simplicissimum. At alkaline conditions, oxalic acid, citric acid, and gluconic acid are the main acids produced by A. niger; the main acid produced by P. simplicissimum is oxalic acid. Similarly, FTIR and chemical characteristics of the metabolites (the organic acid produced) were analyzed under optimal conditions using HPLC. A. niger in alkaline and acidic conditions produces more acids which lead to higher recovery.

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Part of this study was financially supported by the deputy of research and technology of Sharif University of Technology (Award Number QA: 970713). In addition, the authors are thankful to Iran National Science Foundation (Award Number: 99028031). The authors are grateful to Stat-Ease, Minneapolis, MN, USA, for the provision of the Design-Expert 10 .0 .4 package.

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Conceptualization: MA. Methodology: MA. Investigation: MA and AE, BA. Writing—original draft preparation: MA. Writing—review and editing: MA and AE, BA. Supervision: SY.

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Correspondence to Soheila Yaghmaei.

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Arshadi, M., Esmaeili, A., Yaghmaei, S. et al. Evaluation of Aspergillus niger and Penicillium simplicissimum for their ability to leach Zn–Ni–Cu from waste mobile phone printed circuit boards. J Mater Cycles Waste Manag (2021).

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  • Bioleaching
  • Mobile phone printed circuit boards
  • Fungal acid production
  • Central composite design