Skip to main content

Comparative bioleaching of metals from pulverized and non-pulverized PCBs of cell phone charger: advantages of non-pulverized PCBs


Sample inhomogeneity is a severe issue in printed circuit boards especially when we are comparing the bioleaching efficiency. To avoid the ambiguous results obtained due to inhomogeneity in PCBs, 12 similar cell phone chargers (of renowned company) having same make and batch number were collected from scrap market. PCBs obtained from them were used in present studies. Out of these 12, three PCBs were used separately for chemical analysis of PCBs with prior acid digestion in aqua regia. It was found that, 10.8, 68.0, and 710.9 mg/l of Zn, Pb, and Cu were present in it, respectively. Six PCBs were used for bioleaching experiment with two variations, pulverized and non-pulverized. Though the pulverized sample have shown better leaching than non-pulverized one, former has some disadvantages if overall recycling of e-waste (metallic and nonmetallic fraction) is to be addressed. At the end of leaching experiments, copper was recovered using a simple setup of electrodeposition and 92.85% recovery was attained. The acidophiles involved in bioleaching were identified by culture dependent and culture independent techniques such as DGGE and species specific primers in PCR.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8


  1. Adhapure NN, Waghmare SS, Hamde VS, Deshmukh AM (2013) Metal solubilization from powdered printed circuit boards by microbial consortium from bauxite and pyrite ores. Appl Biochem Microbiol 49(3):256–262.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Adhapure NN, Dhakephalkar PK, Dhakephalkar AP, Tembhurkar VR, Rajgure AV, Deshmukh AM (2014) Use of large pieces of printed circuit boards for bioleaching to avoid ‘precipitate contamination problem’ and to simplify overall metal recovery. MethodsX 1:181–186.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Brandl H, Bosshard R, Wegmann M (2001) Computer-munching microbes: metal leaching from electronic scrap by bacteria and fungi. Hydrometallurgy 59(2-3):319–326.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Choi M, Cho K, Kim D, Kim D (2004) Microbial recovery of copper from printed wire boards of waste computer by Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. J Environ Sci Health A 39(11-12):2973–2982.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Colledani, M., Copani, G., Rosa, P. Zero Waste PCBs: a new integrated solution for key-metals recovery from PCBs M. Proceedings SUM 2014, Second Symposium on Urban Mining Bergamo, Italy; 19–21 May 2014 by CISA Publisher, Italy (2014)

  6. Cui J, Zhang L (2008) Metallurgical recovery of metals from electronic waste: a review. J Hazard Mater 158(2-3):228–256.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Demergasso CS, Galeguillos PA, Escudero LV, Zepeda VJ, Castillo D, Casamayor EO (2005) Molecular characterization of microbial populations in a low-grade copper ore bioleaching test heap. Hydrometallurgy 80(4):241–253.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Durand PDW, Bryant LJ, Sly LI (1997) PCR-mediated detection of acidophilic, bioleaching-associated bacteria. Appl Environ Microbiol 63:2944–2948

    Google Scholar 

  9. Huang J, Chen M, Chen H, Chen S, Sun Q (2014) Leaching behavior of copper from waste printed circuit boards with Brønsted acidic ionic liquid. Waste Manag 34(2):483–488.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Ilyas S, Anwar MA, Niazi SB, Ghauri MA (2007) Bioleaching of metals from electronic scrap by moderately thermophilic acidophilic bacteria. Hydrometallurgy 88(1-4):180–188.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Ilyas S, Ruan C, Bhatti HN, Ghauri MA, Anwar MA (2010) Column bioleaching of metals from electronic scrap. Hydrometallurgy 101(3-4):135–140.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Jadhav U, Hocheng H (2015) Hydrometallurgical recovery of metals from large printed circuit board pieces. Sci Rep 5(1):14574.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Jadhav U, Su C, Hocheng H (2016) Leaching of metals from large pieces of printed circuit boards using citric acid and hydrogen peroxide. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23(23):24384–24392.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Johnson DB, Macvicar JHM, Rolfe S (1987) A new medium for the isolation and enumeration of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans and acidophilic heterotrophic bacteria. J Microbiol Meth 7(1):9–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Muyzer G, De Wall EC, Uitterlinden AG (1993) Profiling of complex microbial populations by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis of polymerase chain reaction—amplified genes coding for 16S rRNA. Appl Environ Microbiol 59(3):695–700

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Puype F, Samsonek J, Knoop J, Egelkraut-Holtus M, Ortlieb M (2015) Evidence of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) relevant substances in polymeric food-contact articles sold on the European market. Food Additives Contaminants: Part A 32(3):410–426

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Rawlings, D. E. Restriction enzyme analysis of 16S rRNA genes for the rapid identification of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans, Thiobacillus thiooxidans and Leptospirillum ferrooxidans strains in leaching environments. Pp 9–17, In 2 ed. Jerez, C.A., Vargas, T., Toledo, H. and Wiertz, J.V., Biohydrometallurgical processing, 1995, Santiago. Chile: University of Chile Press (1995)

  18. Rawlings DE, Johnson DB (2007) The microbiology of biomining: development and optimization of mineral-oxidizing microbial consortia. Microbiology 153(2):315–324.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Schwieger F, Tebbe CC (1998) A new approach to utilize PCR–single-strand-conformation polymorphism for 16S rRNA gene-based microbial community analysis. Appl Environ Microbiol 64(12):4870–4876

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Sohaili J, Muniyandi SK, Mohamad SS (2012) A review on printed circuit boards waste recycling technologies and reuse of recovered nonmetallic materials. Int J Scientific Engineering Res 3(2):1–6

    Google Scholar 

  21. Veit HM, Diehl TR, Salami AP, Rodrigues JS, Bernardes AM, Tenório JAS (2005) Utilization of magnetic and electrostaticseparation in the recycling of printed circuit boards scrap. WasteManage 25:67–74

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Wang J, Bai J, Xu J, Liang B (2009) Bioleaching of metals from printed wire boards by Acidithiobacillusferrooxidans and Acidithiobacillusthiooxidans and their mixture. J Hazard Mater 172(2-3):1100–1105.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Xiang Y, Wu P, Zhu N, Zhang T, Liu W, Wu J, Li P (2010) Bioleaching of copper from waste printed circuit boards by bacterial consortium enriched from acid mine drainage. J Hazard Mater 184(1-3):812–818.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Yang T, Zheng X, Wen J, Yang L (2009) Factors influencing bioleaching copper from waste printed circuit boards by Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. Hydrometallurgy 97(1-2):29–32.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Yokoyama, S., Iji, M. Recycling of thermosetting plastics waste from electronic component production processed, in: Proceedings of the 1995 I.E. International Symposium on Electronics and the Environment, 132–137 (1995)

Download references


We express our thanks to Dr. Pravin Puranik, School of Life Sciences, North Maharashtra University, Jalgaon, for providing AAS facility. We are also thankful to Dr. Kokne P. M. and Dr. Barde, N. P., Department of Physics, Badrinarayan Barwale College, Jalna, for their technical support.

Author information




ANN, DAM and WPS conceived and designed the experiments; JVV and SNB did experimental work related to bioleaching; DPK and DAP have designed and performed experiments related to culture independent identification of acidophile; KRM, NBS, SSH, and DAM performed data analysis. All the authors have read and approved the final manuscript. All authors gave final approval of submission.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nitin Adhapure.

Ethics declarations

Research ethics

Not required to complete an ethical assessment prior to conducting your research

Animal ethics

Heading does not apply.

Permission to carry out field work

Heading does not apply.

Competing interests

The authors declare that there are no competing interests.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Joshi, V., Shah, N., Wakte, P. et al. Comparative bioleaching of metals from pulverized and non-pulverized PCBs of cell phone charger: advantages of non-pulverized PCBs. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 28277–28286 (2017).

Download citation


  • PCB
  • Bioleaching
  • E-waste
  • Acidophiles
  • DGGE
  • Species specific primers