ISSN Print: 2381-1153  ISSN Online: 2381-1161
American Journal of Environmental Engineering and Science  
Manuscript Information
Minimization of Energy Wastage in the Electrochemical Recovery of Copper from Its EDTA Complexes in Wastewaters
American Journal of Environmental Engineering and Science
Vol.5 , No. 3, Publication Date: Jun. 28, 2018, Page: 56-71
445 Views Since June 28, 2018, 183 Downloads Since Jun. 28, 2018

Philip Chi-Wah Cheung, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom.


Daryl Robert Williams, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom.


Donald Wilfrid Kirk, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.


James Barker, Department of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kingston University, Kingston-on-Thames, United Kingdom.


For the first time, the recovery of copper from Cu(II)-EDTA complexes in waste streams, which originated from electroless plating of printed circuit boards (PCB), is optimized with respect to the consumption of electrical energy required for the separation process. To narrate the sequence of arguments which result in this minimization of energy expenditure, an electrochemical reactor is set up so that the ways in which electric potential and pH influence the rate of electrodeposition of copper, and therefore power usage, can be followed closely. The initial concentrations of the components of this simulated wastewater are 0.04 mol dm-3 of Cu2+ ions and 0.13 mol dm-3 of EDTA, typical of this type of liquid waste. By applying an electric potential of -1.0V for 4 hours, recovery of copper by electrodeposition at pH = 10.7 in the electrolysis cell equipped with a cation exchange membrane is evinced, successfully removing 31% of Cu2+ ions from aqueous solution. This is carried out for demonstrative purposes, with full recovery expected to be achieved in 12 hours. Studying the rate-controlling mechanisms for the electrodeposition of copper by utilizing a rotating disc electrode reveals that the deposition process is both kinetically and mass transport controlled, down to potentials of -1.5V relative to a Standard Calomel Electrode (SCE). Favored mass transfer mode of operation therefore exists at potentials considerably more negative than -1.5 V, in a potential region where hydrogen production is significant and therefore not viable for electrodeposition. This is the electric potential of sole interest to this work because it is to be avoided. Visual confirmation of copper deposits on the cathode confirmed feasibility of this clean technology for metal recycling. Moreover, a threshold potential of -1.0 V against which engineers can benchmark during preliminary reactor design has been identified in this pioneer work. The authors wish to emphasize that the present work focuses on the theme of “energy efficiency” for a proposed electrolytic process, and in this short space, does not seek to include elucidation of the modes of film deposition and nucleation on surfaces of electrodes by instrumental methods such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM), x-ray diffraction (XRD) or energy dispersive x-ray analysis (EDX). This will be in the domain of future work. (46 references from 1923 – 2018).


Minimization of Energy Loss, Printed Circuit Boards, Electroless Copper Plating, Wastewater, Copper Recycling


Payne J. G. (2017). Chapter 6 – Industry. United Nations World Water Development Report: Wastewater, the Untapped Resource. UNESCO (Paris, France), March 22, 2017, pp. 58 – 77.


En-Chin Su, Bing-Shun Huang, Ming-Yen Wey. (2016). Sustainable hydrogen production from electroplating wastewater over a solar light responsive photocatalyst. Royal Society of Chemistry Advances, 2016, 6 (75), pp. 71273 – 71281.


Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik (BASF) Technical Bulletin (2004), Trilon® Powder Chelating Agent. Available at: (Accessed: May 10, 2018).


Gordievskii A. V., Gurinov Y. S. (1961). Regeneration of Trilon B from copper EDTA solutions by electrolysis with ion exchange. Journal of Applied Chemistry of the USSR, 1961, 34, pp. 899-901.


Johnson J. W., Jiang H. W., Hanna S. B., James W. J. (1972). Anodic oxidation of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid on platinum in acid sulphate solutions. Journal of Electrochemical Society, 1972, 119 (5), pp. 574-580.


Pakalapati S. N. R., Popov B. N. & White R. E. (1996). Anodic oxidation of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid on platinum electrode in alkaline medium. Journal of Electrochemical Society, 1996, 143 (5), pp. 1636-1643.


Bishop P. L., Breton R. A. (1983). Electrolytic recovery of copper from chelated waste streams. Toxic and Hazardous Waste. Proceedings of the Fifteenth Mid-Atlantic Industrial Waste Conference (June 26, 1983). Editors: Lagrega, M. D., Hendrian L. K. Butterworth, 1983, pp. 584 - 506.


Peters R. W. (1997). Handbook of copper compounds and applications (editor: Richardson H. W.), Marcel Dekker, 1997. Chapter 12: Treatment of copper-laden waste streams, pp. 298-299.


Allen A. E., Chen P. H. (1993). Remediation of metal contaminated soil by EDTA incorporating electrochemical recovery of metal and EDTA, Environmental Progress & Sustainable Energy, 1993, 12 (4), pp. 284 - 293.


Juang R. S., Lin L. C. (2000). Efficiencies of electrolytic treatment of complexed metal solutions in a stirred cell having a membrane separator. Journal of Membrane Science, 2000, 171 (1), pp. 19 – 29.


Juang R. S., Lin L. C. (2001). Electrochemical treatment of copper from aqueous citrate solutions using a cation-selective membrane. Separation and Purification Technology, 2001, 22/23, pp. 627–635.


Etzel J. E., Tseng D. (1987). Cation exchange removal of heavy metals with a recoverable chelant regenerant. Metal Speciation, Separation, and Recovery (editors: Patterson J. W., Passino R.), Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, MI, 1987, pp. 571 – 585.


Juang R. S., Wang S. W. (2000). Metal recovery and EDTA recycling from simulated washing effluents of metal-contaminated soils. Water Research, 2000, 34 (15), pp. 3795 – 3803.


Juang R. S., Wang S. W. (2000). Electrolytic recovery of binary metals and EDTA from strong complexes solutions. Water Research, 2000, 34 (12), pp. 3179 - 3185.


Juang R. S., Lin L. C. (2000). Treatment of complexed copper (II) solutions with electrochemical membrane process. Water Research, 2000, 34 (1), pp. 43 – 50.


Oztekin, Y., Yazicigil, Z. (2006). Recovery of metals from complexed solutions by electrodeposition. Desalination, 2006, 190 (1-3), pp. 79 - 88.


Ramkumar J., Chandramoleeswarana S. (2017). Metal Ion Uptake Behaviour of Nafion In presence of organic complexing reagents. MOJ Bioorganic & Organic Chemistry, 2017, 1 (7): 00042. Available at: (Accessed: May 10, 2018.)


Zhang X. F. et al., 6 authors. (2018). Advanced modified polyacrylonitrile membrane with enhanced adsorption property for heavy metal ions. Scientific Reports, 2018, 8, article number: 1260 (2018). Available at: (Accessed: May 10, 2018).


Nithinart Chitpong, Scott M. Husson. (2016). Nanofiber ion-exchange membranes for the rapid uptake and recovery of heavy metals from water. Membranes (Basel), 2016, 6 (4): 59. Available at: (Accessed: May 10, 2018).


Lai C. C., Ku Y. (1992). The mass transfer and kinetic behaviour of chelated copper solution: effect of species distribution. Electrochemica Acta, 1992, 37 (13), pp. 2497 – 2502.


Norkus E. (2000). Diffusion coefficients of Cu(II) complexes with ligands used in alkaline electroless copper plating solutions. Journal of Applied Electrochemistry, 2000, 30 (10), pp. 1163 - 1168.


Ju F., Hu Y. Y. (2011). Removal of EDTA-chelated copper from aqueous solution by interior microelectrolysis. Separation and Purification Technology, 2011, 78 (1), pp. 33 – 41.


Lan S. H., Ju F., Wua X. W. (2012). Treatment of wastewater containing EDTA-Cu(II) using the combined process of interior microelectrolysis and Fenton oxidation–coagulation, Separation and Purification Technology, 2012, 89, pp. 117 – 124.


Ju F., Hu Y. Y., Cheng J. H. (2011). Removal of chelated Cu(II) from aqueous solution by adsorption–coprecipitation with iron hydroxides prepared from microelectrolysis process, Desalination, 2011, 274 (1-3), pp. 130 – 135.


Pociecha M., Kastelec D., Lestan D. (2011). Electrochemical EDTA recycling after soil washing of Pb, Zn and Cd contaminated soil. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 2011, 192 (2), pp. 714 – 721.


Pociecha M., Lestan D. (2012). Recycling of EDTA solution after soil washing of Pb, Zn, Cd and As contaminated soil. Chemosphere, 2012, 86 (8), pp. 843 – 846.


Voglar D., Lestan D. (2012). Electrochemical treatment of spent solution after EDTA- based soil washing. Water Research, 2012, 46 (6), pp. 1999 – 2008.


Voglar D., Lestan D. (2012). Pilot-scale washing of metal contaminated garden soil using EDTA, Journal of Hazardous Materials, 2012, 215/216, pp. 32 – 39.


Lestan D. (2012). Washing of contaminated soils. Patent: WO 2012173576 A2.


Ngah W. S. W., Teong L. C., Hanafiah M. (2011). Adsorption of dyes and heavy metal ions by chitosan composites: A review. Carbohydrate Polymers, 2011, 83 (4), pp. 1446 – 1456.


Race M. et al., 7 authors. (2016). Copper and zinc removal from contaminated soils through soil washing process using ethylenediaminedisuccinic acid as a chelating agent: A modelling investigation. Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering, 2016, 4 (3), pp. 2878–2891.


Cheung P. C. W., Williams D. R. (2015). Separation of Transition Metals and Chelated Complexes in wastewaters. Environmental Progress & Sustainable Energy, 2015, 34 (3), pp. 761-783.


Aksu, S., Doyle, F M. (2000). Potential-pH Diagrams for Copper in Aqueous Solutions of Various Organic Complexing Agents. Electrochemistry in Mineral and Metal Processing V, volume 2000-14 (editors: Woods R. & Doyle F. M.), The Electrochemical Society, Pennington N. J., pp. 258-269.


Pletcher D., Walsh F. C. (1982). Electrochemical Engineering, in Industrial Electrochemistry (bk., 2nded.), Chapman & Hall, 1982, pp. 86 – 91.


Release notes for General Purpose Electrochemical System (GPES) for Windows – Version 4.9.005 and Frequency Response Analysis (FRA) for Windows - version 4.9.005. Available at: (Accessed on May 10, 2018).


Kelsall G. (2002) Lecture notes in “Electrochemical Engineering: Degradation of Materials”, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College, London, England.


Shipley C. R. Jr.; Shipley L., Gulla M., Dutkewych O. B. (1971). Electroless Copper Plating. U.S. Patent 3,615,735. October 26, 1971.


Almeida M. et al., 6 authors. (2011). Electrodeposition of copper–zinc from an alkaline bath based on EDTA. Surface & Coatings Technology, 2011, 206 (1), pp. 95–102.


Haring H. E., Blum W. (1923). Current Distribution and Throwing Power in Electrodeposition, Transactions of the American Electrochemical Society, 1923, 43, pp. 365 – 397.


Shozo Mizumoto S. et al., 5 authors. (1991). Electroplating of copper from EDTA complex bath and miniscale throwing Power Circuit Technology, 1991, 6 (1), pp. 1-7.


Albery J. (1975). Copper System, in Electrode Kinetics (bk.), Oxford Chemistry Series, Clarendon Press, 1975, pp. 149.


Zhiyan Zou, Zhou Shi, Lin Deng. (2017). Highly efficient removal of Cu(II) from aqueous solution using a novel magnetic EDTA functionalized CoFe2O4. RSC Advances, Issue 9, 2017, issue in progress. Available:!divAbstract (Accessed: May 10, 2018.)


Adewuyi A., Peirera F. V. (2017). Preparation and application of EDTA-functionalized underutilized Adansonia digitata seed for removal of Cu(II) from aqueous solution. Sustainable Environment Research, December 2017, 28 (3), pp. 111 – 120. Available at: (Accessed: May 10, 2018.)


Fan M. et al., 5 authors. (2017). Modeling and prediction of copper removal from aqueous solutions by nZVI/rGO magnetic nanocomposites using ANN-GA and ANN-PSO. Springer NATURE, Scientific Reports, 2017, 7, Article number: 18040 (2017). Available at: (Accessed: May 10, 2018.)


Jilal I., El Barkany S. (2018). New quaternized cellulose based on hydroxyethyl cellulose (HEC) grafted EDTA: Synthesis, characterization and application for Pb (II) and Cu (II) removal. Agris, 2018, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Available at: (Accessed: March 8, 2018.)


Larsson M et al., 6 authors. (2018). Copper removal from acid mine drainage-polluted water using glutaraldehyde-polyethyleneimine modified diatomaceous earth particles. Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering, Environmental Science, Heliyon, 4 (2), 2018, article number: e00520. Available at: (Accessed: March 8, 2018.)

  Join Us
  Join as Reviewer
  Join Editorial Board