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Cyanide Leaching Chemistry of Platinum-Group Metals
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    Previous research by the U.S. Bureau of Mines has shown that autoclave cyanide leaching of used automobile exhaust catalysts for recovery of platinum-group metals (PGM) is technically feasible. The purpose of this work was to investigate the chemistry of the dissolution of PGM in cyanide solutions in more detail. Where possible, samples of pure, elemental PGM powders or foils were used instead of automobile exhaust catalysts, because of their greater purity. Ultraviolet spectra revealed that Pt and Pd were solubilized as the square planar tetracyanometallate (II) complexes, while Rh was solubilized as the octahedral hexacyanorhodate (III) complex. This explained the poor recovery of Rh from solution by carbon adsorption, solvent extraction, and ion exchange observed in earlier research, because of the higher anionic charge and size of the octahedral complex. Leaching rate studies showed that the rate of solubilization was greatest for Pd, followed by Pt and Rh. Although the rate of chemical reaction was the controlling step for the dissolution of elemental Pt and Rh samples, the rate of pore diffusion was rate limiting for PGM in catalyst samples.

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