Recovery of gold(III) from multi-elemental solutions by alfalfa biomass

G. Gamez, J. L. Gardea-Torresdey, K. J. Tiemann, J. Parsons, K. Dokken, M. Jose Yacaman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


The increasing demand for gold has encouraged the development of cost effective and environmentally friendly techniques to recycle and recover this precious metal from waste liquors. Earlier experiments have shown the appreciable ability of alfalfa shoot biomass to accumulate Au(III) from aqueous solutions. Likewise, alfalfa biomass is able to bind other metal ions in noticeable amounts. Thus, experiments with solutions containing multiple metal ions were performed in order to determine the effect of other ions on gold accumulation by alfalfa biomass. Batch laboratory experiments showed that Au(III) binds in a rapid and pH-independent-like manner in the presence of other metal ions, which agrees with experiments using solutions containing only Au(III). In addition, Au(III) was found to have one of the highest metal binding affinities to the alfalfa biomass compared to Pb(II), Cr(III), Cu(II), Zn(II), Ni(II), and Cd(II), even at the optimum binding pH for the other metal ions (pH 5.0). A similar behavior for Au(III) accumulation was observed under flow conditions. Nevertheless, it was determined that the selectivity of the immobilized alfalfa biomass could be shifted towards Au(III) by decreasing the pH of the multi-metal solution to 2.0 (similar to mining and industrial environments where aqueous gold is found). Alfalfa biomass was also found to accumulate Au(III) efficiently even when Ca and Mg ions were added to the multi-metal solutions at concentrations up to 10 000 times higher than Au(III). These results will aid the development of a novel method to recover gold ions from aqueous solutions utilizing alfalfa biomass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-571
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Environmental Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Alfalfa
  • Binding affinities
  • Gold recovery
  • Metal binding
  • Phytofiltration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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