Kinetics and Modeling of Counter-Current Leaching of Waste Random-Access Memory Chips in a Cu-NH3-SO4 System Utilizing Cu(II) as an Oxidizer

Peijia Lin, Joshua Werner, Zulqarnain Ahmad Ali, Lucas Bertucci, Jack Groppo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The leaching of Cu in ammoniacal solutions has proven an efficient method to recover Cu from waste printed circuit boards (WPCBs) that has used by many researchers over the last two decades. This study investigates the feasibility of a counter-current leaching circuit that would be coupled with an electrowinning (EW) cell. To accomplish this objective, the paper is divided into three parts. In Part 1, a leaching kinetic framework is developed from a set of experiments that were designed and conducted using end-of-life waste RAM chips as feed sources and Cu(II)-ammoniacal solution as the lixiviant. Various processing parameters, such as particle size, stirring rates, initial Cu(II) concentrations, and temperatures, were evaluated for their effects on the Cu recovery and the leaching rate. It was found that the particle size and initial Cu(II) concentration were the two most important factors in Cu leaching. Using a 1.2 mm particle size diameter and 40 g/L of initial Cu(II) concentration, a maximum Cu recovery of 96% was achieved. The Zhuravlev changing-concentration model was selected to develop the empirically fitted kinetic coefficients. In Part 2, kinetic data were adapted into a leaching function suitable for continuously stirred tank reactors. This was achieved via using the coefficients from the Zhuravlev model and adapting them to the Jander constant concentration model for use in the counter-current circuit model. Part 3 details the development of a counter-current circuit model based on the relevant kinetic model, and the circuit performance was modeled to provide a tool that would allow the exploration of maximum copper recovery whilst minimizing the Cu(II) reporting to electrowinning. A 4-stage counter-current circuit was modeled incorporating a feed of 35 g/L of Cu(II), achieving a 4.12 g/L Cu(II) output with 93% copper recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6274
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • ammoniacal solution
  • circuit boards
  • copper leaching
  • diffusion-controlled
  • kinetic modeling
  • recycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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