Department of Chemistry and Materials Science

EARMetal project

Electrochemically-Assisted Aqueous Reduction of Waste Streams for Metals Recovery and Functional Surfaces (Academy of Finland)
EARMetal webpage, main image. Photo by Aalto University, Maija Vaara, Mithila Mohan

Full title of the project: Electrochemically-Assisted Aqueous Reduction of Waste Streams for Metals Recovery and Functional Surfaces (Academy of Finland)

More about the project:

EARMetal aims to capture precious metals, such as Pt, Pd, Au or Ag, from hydrometallurgical process and waste solutions, in which they are present at concentrations so low that the recovery with current methods is not feasible. Furthermore, precious metals will be deposited, energy efficiently and selectively, on 3D networks with controllable porosity, prepared from food processing waste, and stimuli-responsive polymer rings. These surfaces will have an active function (e.g. catalytic or antibacteriality) that can be turned on/off by an external stimulus, for example, by light or other trigger. This allows the deposited surface to be reversible, hidden and re-exposed.

Moreover, EARMetal investigates in parallel recycling strategies for new materials: holistic recycling of these functional materials at their end of life is investigated, and hydrometallurgical recycling routes are developed for the recovery of both metals and organic materials.

Project targets

EARMetal aims to combine the energy-efficient recovery of metals with direct functionalization of surfaces. Many types of surfaces will be investigated, including porous scaffolds and stimuli-responsive structures. Both the recovery of metals and the fabrication of the surface materials make use of industrial waste and side streams. This provides a comprehensive and novel way for preparing catalytic surfaces fully built using secondary raw materials. 

Project team

The EAR set up for metal deposition. Photo by Aalto University, Linfan Cui
The EAR set up for metal deposition / Photo: Aalto University, Linfan Cui

Linfan Cui, Postdoctoral Researcher

"I joined the EARMetal project in January 2022 as a postdoctoral researcher. My role is to investigate the electrochemically-assisted aqueous reduction process for the metal recovery from industrial process or waste solutions, and to further create functional electrocatalytic surfaces based on the EAR process."

Reima Herrala, Doctoral Candidate

Solutions used for deposition, with varying concentrations of ions. Photo by Aalto University, Reima Herrala
Solutions used for deposition, with varying concentrations of ions / Photo: Aalto University, Reima Herrala

"Currently I am conducting experiments to develop a better understanding of how we can control the reaction. This includes trying various solution compositions and deposition parameters. Once we have a solid understanding of the reaction, we can optimize it for the functionality of the resulting surface. 

As soon as we get a good fundamental understanding of the reaction, experimental work will commence on real industrial solutions and fabricating potential substrate materials." 

Maryam Mousavi, Doctoral Candidate

The EDRR set up for recovering Pt using FTO as working electrode. Photo by Aalto University, Maryam Mousavi
The EDRR set up for recovering Pt using FTO as working electrode / Photo: Aalto University, Maryam Mousavi

"I started working on the EARMetal project in July 2021. My role in this project involves investigating the recovery of valuable metals from side stream waste solutions for their subsequent use in solar panels.

The purpose of the work is to minimize the fabrication cost of solar modules, as well as to apply the EDRR technique in order to find a new supply for precious metals such as platinum, silver and copper. The experiments are ongoing until we reach the stage where the Pt deposited substrates have good coverage and functionality for the photovoltaic purposes."


Recent developments of electrodeposition-redox replacement in metal recovery and functional materials: A review

Linfan Cui, Kirsi Yliniemi, Jaana Vapaavuori, Mari Lundström 2023 Chemical Engineering Journal

Contact information: 

Accountable project leader: Prof. Jaana Vapaavuori ([email protected])

Project member: Kirsi Yliniemi ([email protected])

Project researchers:
Linfan Cui, Postdoctoral Researcher ([email protected])
Reima Herrala, Doctoral Candidate ([email protected])
Maryam Mousavi, Doctoral Candidate ([email protected])

Project interns: Mariel Mylly ([email protected]), Mathis Garnier ([email protected])

Project page on the Research Aalto portal: EARMetal

This project is a consortium project that is being implemented in collaboration with the 'Hydrometallurgy and Corrosion (Hydromet)' research group, led by Prof. Mari Lundström, from the Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering.

Link to the general EARMetal webpage (will be added later)

Related content:

Multifunctional Materials Design

Group led by Professor Jaana Vapaavuori

MMD webpage main image. GIF image by Aalto University, Giulnara Launonen

Hydrometallurgy and Corrosion (Hydromet)

Group led by Professor Mari Lundström

Precious metals in crushed batteries being dissolved in a test tube. Photo: Glen Forde/Aalto Energy Platform

New Academy Projects to be launched in September

New Academy Projects funded by the Academy of Finland involve expertise from all six Aalto schools

Organ type of image with white "veins" and small bacteria dots in red background, original image by Valeria Azovskaya
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