04 Nov 2013
Fluke Turns Gold Green - A chance discovery may have given the world a cheap and environmentally friendly process for mining gold – still one of the most environmentally destructive industries in the world. While searching for a three–dimensional extended cubic structure (CD–MOF), Dr Zhichang Liu obtained a shiny pale–brown precipitate – a complex between potassium tetrabromoaurate and alpha–cyclodextrin, which just happens to be extremely good at separating out this gold salt, even in the presence of other (precious) metals. The process is simple, selective, scalable and super cost efficient. All it requires is for the gold–bearing materials to be dissolved in an aqueous solution of potassium bromide and bromine which is relatively safe and easy to handle – unlike the current cyanide leaching process used in 80% of today's gold production. No publication (# 999) in Fraser's career has generated close to as much interest by companies (mining and those in support of the industry) and the media worldwide. Zhichang and Fraser, who have literally been under siege since the article was published in Nature Communications on 14 May 2013, received the 2013 IChemE North America Chemical Engineering Project Award for Innovation & Excellence from the IChemE past president and current president of the Chevron Ornoite Company, Dr Desmond King, in San Francisco on Monday 4 November 2013. Congratulations Zhichang and Fraser!