In this method, the silver-bearing solution is passed between two electrodes through which a controlled direct electric current flows as shown in Figure 3. Silver plates out on the cathodes as almost pure metal.
The advantages of the electrolytic method is that silver is recovered in an almost pure form, making it easier to handle and less costly to refine. With careful monitoring, it also permits fixer reuse for some processes. It also avoids the need to store and replace cartridges, as with the
metallic replacement method. Recovery efficiency is typically 93-97%, and by maintaining the correct mix of processing effluent, can be as high as 99%.
The disadvantages of electrolytic methods are the difficulty in reducing silver in the effluent to very low levels, and the careful monitoring required to avoid silver sulfide formation. Initial capital investment is high. None of these disadvantages is a serious deterrent. The concentration that can be achieved depends on how low the current density can be set with the unit. As the silver concentration gets lower, the current density can be set lower to prevent silver sulfide from forming. With low current densities, a large cathode area is needed to achieve the necessary silver recovery rate. In order to reduce the residual silver concentration in the electrolytic cell effluent further, at least one CRC is used for finally polishing the electrolytic cell effluent (Fig. 3).
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