Modern Alchemy

When you hear of Alchemy it might make you think of old superstition. Or perhaps the book called “The Alchemist” that features it’s own dose of magic. But we’re here to give you a modern rendition of alchemy…and it’s real!
A French company called Magpie Polymers has done what no one thought possible, they are selling a technology with a hint of alchemy: turning water into gold. It does so by extracting from industrial waste water the last traces of any rare—and increasingly valuable—metal.
The following is taken from their website:
Founded in 2011 as a spin-off from the Ecole Polytechnique, Magpie Polymers produces proprietary filtration technology with extreme selectivity in difficult to treat waste or process water. Magpie resins essentially capture precious metals that would otherwise be lost in waste water, providing the customer with an immediate and material impact to their bottom line..

More selective than any other filtration media, Magpie Polymers recovers precious metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold, even in the presence of high amounts of other metals, organics and hard or salty water. Magpie Polymers are efficient over a large range of pH, including concentrated acid at pH 0.

The polymers are easily implemented in filtration columns similar to ion exchange resins, but outperform ion-exchange resins with regards to selectivity, loading, and stability in complex effluents.

Industrial applications :

  • Silver Refining
  • Gold and PGM Refining
  • Mining and Precious Metals Extraction
  • Fine Chemistry catalyst recovery
  • Surface Treatment
  • WEEE and Automotive Catalyst Recycling

“We leave only a microgramme per litre,” according to Steve van Zutphen, a Dutchman who founded Magpie Polymers last year with a fellow 30-year old Frenchman Etienne Almoric.
“It’s the equivalent of a sugar lump in an Olympic swimming pool.”
Magpie Polymers operates from a factory at Saint-Pierre-les-Nemours about 50 miles southeast of Paris.
It is at the leading edge of technology with a procedure developed at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique in 2007.
The process is based on the use of tiny pellets of plastic resin through which waste water is pumped. Gold, platinum, palladium and rhodium, the world’s most precious metals, little by little stick to the pellets and are thus separated from the waste water.
A single liter of this patented resin can treat five to 10 cubic m of waste water and recover 50 to 100 grammes of precious metal, equivalent to $3,900 to $6,500,” Almoric said.
Mobile phones, catalytic converters and countless other everyday products contain these precious metals.
But once they are scrapped, the problem lies in retrieving the particles of precious metals.
“What is complicated is that the amounts are infinitesimal, so hard to recover,” according to Steve van Zutphen.
Once they have been separated and crushed some industrial waste products have to be dissolved with acid in water. Then the metals in the water have to be recovered whether they are valuable or not.
“There are many technologies to get metal from water that have existed since the 19th century. But there comes a moment when existing technologies are no longer effective or become too expensive,” van Zutphen said.
The chief markets to which the two entrepreneurs are looking are the “refiners”: specialists in the recovery of precious metals, such as British firm Johnson Matthey, the Anglo-French company Cookson-Clal and Boliden of Sweden.
But the technology could also be of interest to mining groups or large water treatment companies such as French Veolia or Suez Environnement.
The Great Recession has revived interest in gold. Many website design agencies have helped to create websites and educate the public on the longstanding value of gold such as Derek Abello SEO. And thanks to rising demand for platinum and similar metals, combined with increasing shortages, prices have soared. As platinum mines become exhausted, half the metal used worldwide is already recycled.
Magpie’s technology can also be used to leach out harmful metals such as lead, mercury, cobalt, copper and uranium.
“Obviously the amounts are much bigger. The problem is that nobody wants to pay for something that has no value,” said Almoric.
Tougher environmental standards, which would further tighten the rules of waste recovery for businesses, could add further strength to the Magpie model.