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Refining silver from film recovery


#1

Hi, I recently acquired a few pounds of fine silver that was
recovered from a film processing lab. The silver looks black and
crumbly but promising so i decided to melt some down and see what
happened. I heated it to melting and it turned bright shinny silver
white, it crackled and sizzled for a while and then spattered and
started to look more like pancake batter than silver but if i kept
heating it for a few minutes it stopped spattering and turned into a
bright round perfect ball. When it cooled it was totaly silver white
and solid with out any pickling to do, it looks and acts just like
fine silver. Is it really that easy? Or could it still be
contaminated and need further refining? Does anyone know? The silver
was not recovered using any zinc or alloys of any sort, it was
recovered electronically so all it has in it is fix from the
developer so i am hoping i could actually just throw this stuff into
a electro melt and it would come out pure. Any info is greatly
appreciated. Thank you!

Like a star, an aberration, or a flame,Like a magical illusion, a dew
drop, or a water bubble,Like a dream, lightening, or a cloud,Thus
should you regard all conditioned things. -Nagarjuna


#2

Tai, It’s pure silver as far as I can tell. I bought a few pounds of
the same stuff several years ago and I’ve used it for sheet, wire
and alloyed it for casting. Works fine. Jerry in Kodiak


#3

Hi, Tai – I cannot answer all your questions, but if it was
recovered electrolytically it should be fairly pure – it is usually
around 98%. Not quite fine silver. (Most of the labs weigh and assay
their silver before they send it to the refiner, to avoid being
cheated.) I don’t know just how the refiners further purify it. You
might call one of them (Handy & Harman, for example) and see what you
can find out.

Margaret


#4

While we are on the subject… I have about 200 lb of used xray film.
Is it or is it not true: one can recover silver from used xray film?
I’ve scraped the fibrous tan material from the bottom of the tank
that catches the run-off from wet films. If I ever try your method,
Tai, I may recover silver from that material. But I want to know if
the film itself can be used to recover silver. …only 1375 more
emails to sort… Judy


#5

FYI, The silver recovered from film in south east asia, is
recoveored from stolen hospital X-ray archives. The gains tend to be
larger, with iregguar sizes and shapes, and a copper flush covers
some of them. Casting using this material will surely create
porosity problems, for fabrication it might work

Chan


#6
 Hi, I recently acquired a few pounds of fine silver that was
recovered from a film processing lab." 

Hello Tai, I have played with recovered film silver also, as I used
to work at a photo lab… my biggest worry was the toxins (chemistry)
included in it… if you are burning them out, be sure and use some
good ventilation, and a mask for yourself. I would expect if you were
doing a lot of it, you might find residue separating from the silver
during the melt… remember, this stuff is TOXIC!! Try to be careful
when disposing of it. I actually ended up not using that silver for
anything… I think we threw it away, we were just too worried. Good
luck!

Drew


#7

Yes, the silver can be extracted from Xray film. I once ran into a
guy in a hotel in a small town in Honduras who made his living
buying used Xray film from hospitals throughout Central America and
extracting the silver. He did it in his garage back in the States.
Jerry in Kodiak


#8

You betcha you can! And you will probably get quite a bit, as it is

  1. black and white, and mosly pretty dark, and 2) usually has the
    emulsion on both sides. The easiest way to do it is get some fixing
    bath – maybe from your local photo lab – stick the film in a few
    sheets at a time and leave until they just look like clear film. Then
    run the used fixing bath through a silver reclamation cartridge (or
    an electrolytic unit if the local lab has one. with the electrolytic
    you come out with about 98% pure silver.

margaret


#9

I wanted to thank those of you that wrote in in response to my
question on film recovery. I will make sure to use a good mask when
melting this down as i did smell something funny the first time I
tried melting a sample of this stuff. I know it can’t be healthy to
say the least. I may just melt it in a metal melt to see what
happens to it. It seems if enough heat is applied it burns
everything out of it and it comes out clean and balls up beautifully
so I think I will try some casting with it and see what happens,
I’ll write back in to Orchid with my results. If anyone has film
like this and they are going to throw it out please send it to me
instead, I’ll happily pay all shipping! As for the question about the
person who wrote in that has x-ray film, x-ray film contains the
most silver on it than any other film so that is the best place to
recover silver. If you have a way of recovering it electronically,
so there is no zinc involved then I would do it. I know you can at
least get money for the silver if you send it into a refinery,
unless you just do it your self then you don’t have to pay the
refiner. I have a friend who is starting to get loads of boxes of old
archived hospital film that was just going to be thrown, as well as
other films. He offers to pick up peoples unwanted film for free
and then he recovers it at his lab and is getting quite a big and
on-going supply of silver. In general hospitals and such have to pay
a fee to dispose of their film, that means they pay someone to pick
up the film, then that someone recovers the silver and keeps it and
gets payed to pick it up. So he is offering to pick up film for free
so he can have the silver. If you have the ability to recover silver
this is a nice way to get free silver, as no one wants to pay to get
their old film disposed of. So thank you to everyone and Hanuman for
making this forum such a great place to get help. Orchid is a great
invention.


#10

These cartridges you speak of: are they expensive? I tried finding
out about this from Imperial Smelting in Toronto, they, as big as
they are, were not able to help me on this. So if you could direct
me…all my research has brought me to a dead end. There are a few
companies wanting to sell these huge units costing upwards of $4,000
which is probably not a good idea… thanks again.


#11

Just an additional note – you can only recover silver from
black-and white film; color film has no silver in it, once it is
processed.

Margaret


#12
    These cartridges you speak of: are they expensive? I tried
finding out about this from Imperial Smelting in Toronto, they, as
big as they are, were not able to help me on this. So if you could
direct me...all my research has brought me to a dead end. There are
a few companies wanting to sell these huge units costing upwards of
$4,000 which is probably not a good idea... thanks again. 

I don’t think the small ones are particularly expensive. Check with
a small photo lab in your area. I know Kodak has (or used to have)
small cartridges for silver recovery purposes. Remember, however, that
once you have “recovered” the silver with the cartridge, the
cartridge has to be sent to a refiner, to recover the silver from the
cartridge. (With the Kodak cartridge it went/goes back to Kodak).

Margaret


#13
   You betcha you can!  And you will probably get quite a bit, as
it is 1) black and white, and mosly pretty dark, and 2) usually has
the emulsion on both sides. The easiest way to do it is get some
fixing bath -- maybe from your local photo lab -- stick the film in
a few sheets at a time and leave until they just look like clear
film.<snipped> 

Just to add a bit to Margarets note, plain fix bath won’t work, as
that is used to remove the unexposed silver halides during
development. By the time you get old film it’s already done it’s
job, and been recovered, by someone else. What you need is a
"bleach-fix" bath. This will convert the black silver particles in
the emulsion to a form which is soluble, and then dissolve it.

You can buy bleach-fix from a good photo supply shop (not so many of
those around these days). You can get formulas in any number of
photo books. Look for “bleach”, “reducer” or “Farmers reducer”.

Kevin (NW England, UK)


#14
  In general hospitals and such have to pay a fee to dispose of
their film, that means they pay someone to pick up the film, then
that someone recovers the silver and keeps it and gets payed to
pick it up. So he is offering to pick up film for free so he can
have the silver. If you have the ability to recover silver this is
a nice way to get free silver, as no one wants to pay to get their
old film disposed of. 

Ganoksinners not in the U.S. can disregard this, though I believe
Canada has similar laws.

Be aware that used x-ray films, if they have patient information
photoprinted on them, or any other identifying markings, fall under
HIPAA (national health privacy laws) regulations in the
U.S.

Contact a lawyer before assuming ownership of any part of anything
even remotely concerned with patient records. Uncle Sam takes HIPAA
seriously.

-pm