The solvents solving our gold challenges

Work in our Departments of Geology and Chemistry to develop safer and greener ways to process gold has been featured on the BBC World Service’s Science Hour (from 44m).

Geologist Professor Gawen Jenkin discussed work on the TeaSe project to develop methods of extracting gold that are non-toxic, biodegradable and cost effective. The team has developed a technique using deep eutectic solvents, specifically a mixture of vitamin B4 and urea.

Mercury poisoning is an unfortunate side-effect of goldmining in developing countries, as the metal is used in processing the gold but then affects the miners and local community. Following a segment on the impact of mercury poisoning in Colombia, the BBC head to a goldmine in Scotland which is assisting the University of Leicester team in developing safer ways to extract the precious metal.

Although in its early days, the team’s research has the potential to be a great boon to the goldmining industry – but its focus is also on extracting other valuable metals too. Dr Jenkin explains the value of sourcing tellurium – a metal vital in the production of solar panels.