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CPUs: The Gold Mine for the Escrap Recycler

Updated on December 14, 2011

Published: December 14, 2011

The real gold mine for the escrap recycler contained in a computer is the micro processor chip or CPU. The manufacturing process for CPUs since the early days have used gold for various purposes. When the PC was first released, the cost of gold was lower and more gold was used in CPUs including the early Intel 8088 style processors with the hay-day of those processors releasing the 386 and 486 processors.

Intel Pentium Pro Obtained under Creative Commons License from
Intel Pentium Pro Obtained under Creative Commons License from | Source

Intel Pentium Pro

The most gold rich CPU ever produced ws the Intel Pentium Pro, illustrated in the photo to the right. This particular CPU included a gold plated component to provide a connectrion to the heatsync. With the gold plated heatsync connector, gold plated pins, and and microfine gold connecting wires, the Pentium Pro yields slightly over one gram of gold per CPU.

These CPUs sell for a premium on eBay in either the working or escrap condition. As always, if the recycler obtains working Pentium Pro processors, the most value would be obtained by selling the CPUs as working units. Combined with a working Pentium Prow mother board, the recycler could easily sell the units for over $100 to individuals needing to replace those devices in legacy computers that cannot be replaced. The Intel Pentium Pro processor has been out of production for quite some time.

Intel 486 DX Obtained under Creative Commons license from
Intel 486 DX Obtained under Creative Commons license from | Source

Intel 486 DX

A prececessor to the Pentium Pro CPU was the Intel 486 DX. The 486 processor came in various versions, which is the case with most microprocessor CPUs and some CPUs specified chipsets or combinations of other microcircuits used in combination to provide certain functions, such as basic input/out (BIOS) functions. These chipsets also contain a limited amount of gold and will normally reside on the motherboard with the CPY.

Notice from the photo of the Intel 486 DX included here that the pins seem to be gold plated. This gold plate accounts for most of the gold contained on many CPUs but if you look closely at the photo, you may notice that there is some gold content within the chip itself. Micro-fine wires made of gold connect the chip to the package and in some cases, the pads that the gold wires connect to are also gold plated.

Pentium 4 CPU Obtained under Creative Commons license from
Pentium 4 CPU Obtained under Creative Commons license from | Source
Intel 486 Internals Obtained under Creative Commons license from
Intel 486 Internals Obtained under Creative Commons license from | Source

Fiber CPU's

Most personal computers with the PC designation use Intel processors and chipsets or Intel equivalants, such as those manufactured by AMD or other generic manufacturers. Some of these processors contain such a small amount of gold that the recycler should be cautious when considering purchasing escrap processors for gold content.

Although the CPU in the photo to the right is an Intel Pentium 4, you will notice that the gold content is lower than for the gold-rich Pentium Pro. This particular CPU is of a fiber classification for the package and most fiber CPUs contain less gold, regardless of the manufacturer. The most gold is contained in ceramic type chips.

Even the reduced gold content of many CPUs may be worth reclaiming, however. The photo of the internal structure of a fiber type Pentium 4 demonstrates that there is gold contained within the chips themselves. Notice the gold color in the photo but take into consideration the fact that the photo was taked under a microscope so the gold represented by the photo is a small amount indeed.

Most of the gold content in these CPUs is contained in the gold plate of the pins.

Tomson 68000 CPU Cutaway Obtained under Creative Commons license from
Tomson 68000 CPU Cutaway Obtained under Creative Commons license from | Source

Non Intel CPU's

Special equipment and non PC computers, such as those manufactured by Apple Computer also contain CPU's containing gold. The M68000 presented here shows some of the gold content which may be collected from non-Intel CPU chips.

Notice in the photo that this particular chip also incorporated a gold-plated heatsync plate and gold wires connect the chip to the pins. Although the author could find no specs for the gold content of this particular CPU, the CPU appears to contain an amount of gold approaching that of a Pentium Pro.

Extracting the Gold

Separating the gold from a CPU is a multi-step process. The first step would be to use a torch to heat the gold-plated pins to separate the pins from the package. When enough pins have been collected then the pins are processed to extract the gold.

There are various processes used to extract the gold from the CPU packages. Some of these methods include grinding then burning the components to melt the gold or using acids or other solvents to dissolve the packages, what remains is then the gold.

Once again, for an individual recycler with little experience as a home chemist, the best method would be to collect a number of the CPU's, then send the collection to a gold refiner. The refiner pays for the CPUs up front. However, if sending the CPUs to a refiner, sort the CPUs and sent the refiner the same type of CPU in a batch.

Be honest with the refiner because the recycler will probably deal with a refiner multiple times and establish a working relationship. A good relationship will build trust on the part of the refiner.

Fiber CPU Gold Recovery Using a Blowtorch


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