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Title:
AN APPARATUS AND A METHOD FOR TREATING MATERIAL
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2020/260748
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Disclosed is an apparatus for handling solid material (7), comprising one or more transport tubes (12) arranged to receive a unit dose (10) of the material (7) to be treated, one or more treatment containers (29, 30, 31), and a source (27a) of transferring force to be targeted at the unit dose (10) of the material (7) to be treated, wherein the transferring force (27a) is arranged to carry the unit dose (10) in the transport tube (12), wherein one or more transport tubes (12) are connected to at least one treatment container (29, 30, 31) to move the unit dose (10) of the material to be treated along the transport tube (12) to the treatment container (29, 30, 31). Also disclosed is a method for handling solid material using the apparatus.

Inventors:
RINNE TERO (FI)
Application Number:
FI2019/050514
Publication Date:
December 30, 2020
Filing Date:
June 28, 2019
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
IECORECYCLE OY (FI)
International Classes:
B09B3/00; B03B9/06; B65G51/04; C22B3/02; C23C18/16; C25C3/00
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BERGGREN OY (FI)
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Claims:
Claims

1. An apparatus for treating solid material (7), the apparatus comprising

- one or more transport tubes (12) configured to receive a unit dose (10) of material to be treated; - one or more treatment tanks (29, 30, 31 ) and/or one or more treatment zones; and

- one or more sources (27a) of a moving force that can be applied to the unit dose of material to be treated, wherein the moving force is configured to transport the unit dose in the transport tube, wherein

- one or more of the transport tubes are connected to at least one treatment tank, for conveying the unit dose of material to be treated along the transport tube to the treatment tank, characterized in that the treatment tank comprises treating means for carrying out any of the following treatments: a chemical treatment, an electro chemical treatment, irradiation, or a visual treatment.

2. The apparatus according to claim 1 , characterized in that the treatment tank comprises a processing tank or reservoir, a washing tank or reservoir, or a waste and/or storage container or reservoir.

3. The apparatus according to claim 1 or 2, characterized in that a treatment zone comprises treating means for treating material; preferably, the transport tube comprises a section provided with apertures or perforations at the location of the treatment zone, which may be closable and openable, and via which the unit dose can be treated in the transport tube.

4. The apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that the transport tube comprises openings, such as perforations, at the location of the treatment tank or treatment zone, for allowing treatment of the material. 5. The apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that the source of the moving force is selected from a source of underpressure or over pressure, for example a compressed air tank, a compressor, or a fan; a mechanical conveyor; and a source of a magnetic field.

6. The apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that it comprises one or more tube shifters connected to two or more transport tubes, for transferring the unit dose of material to be treated to a desired transport tube.

7. The apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that the unit dose of material is configured to be removed from the treatment tank after the treatment.

8. The apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that the moving force comprises a mechanical conveyor, and the transport tube com prises one or more treatment zones, optionally as an alternative to a treatment tank; and the treatment zone is equipped with treating means for treating the material with a chemical treatment; and the transport tube is provided with a section provided with apertures or perforations at the location of the treatment zone, via which section the unit dose can be treated in the treatment tube.

9. A method for treating solid material, the method comprising:

- providing the apparatus according to any of the preceding claims;

- providing one or more unit doses of material to be treated;

- inserting the one or more unit doses of material to be treated in at least one transport tube of the apparatus;

- subjecting the one or more unit doses of material to be treated to a moving force, for transferring it/them to at least one treatment tank and/or to one or more treatment zones;

- treating the material to be treated in the at least one treatment tank and/or in the one or more treatment zones, to obtain treated material, characterized in that the treatment is selected from chemical treatment, electro chemical treatment, irradiation, or visual treatment.

10. The method according to claim 9, characterized in that the unit dose of mate rial to be treated comprises the material in a partly open transport capsule, such as a perforated transport capsule.

1 1 . The method according to claim 9, characterized in that the material to be treated is not contained in a transport capsule.

12. The method according to any of the claims 9 to 1 1 , characterized in that the unit dose of the material to be treated comprises a fixed unit of material enclosed in a package or a bag, wherein it comprises an enclosing structure, such as a gauze, a thread, a band, a bag, or a corresponding binding structure, for keeping the unit together.

13. The method according to any of the claims 9 to 12, characterized by removing the treated material from the treatment tank and/or from the treatment zone. 14. The method according to any of the claims 9 to 13, characterized in that material to be treated is industrial waste or recyclable material and/or metal-contain ing material, for example selected from the following: electric and/or electronic waste, metal waste, material from the mining industry, such as ore, material to be coated.

Description:
An apparatus and a method for treating material

Field of application

The application relates to an apparatus and a method for treating material, for example chemically and/or physically. The application also relates to the recovery of substances from the material to be treated, as well as an electrochemical method to be used for coating, de-coating and/or cleaning of materials.

Technical background

In circular economy, precious metals, rare earth elements and/or other substances are separated from electric and electronic waste for reuse, by applying methods of prior art, based on chemical dissolutions or electrolysis. Conventionally, processing of materials has been implemented by processing apparatuses based on linear mechanical equipment and used for transporting baskets or rotating cylindrical hold ers in XYZ coordinate levels, for conveying materials to be processed in a process line between liquids in process tanks, liquids in washing tanks, and waste or storage containers. In processing apparatuses of prior art, the mechanical structures of con veyors are large, heavy, complex, low-speed, bulky, subject to failures, demanding continuous maintenance; and each treatment tank and/or processing line is equipped with a separate conveyor. Due to the mechanical principles of movement applied for transporting the materials to be processed, it is necessary that the treat ment tanks have an open structure. If strong acids or poisonous chemicals are used, the open structure has to be provided with a separate insulated shield structure, a ventilation system, and filters for removing toxic vapours and odours. Furthermore, conventional processing apparatuses of prior art are not always suitable for pro cessing small particle sizes or powders, and the material to be processed is often manually fed and/or discharged. It is challenging to design the above-mentioned processing apparatuses of prior art for fully automated continuous processes.

Brief description

With the implementations described herein, we succeeded in providing an appa ratus and a method for quick treatment of materials in a safe and controlled way.

In the apparatus and in the method, the material to be treated is transported in one or more treatment tanks, wherein the material to be processed is subjected to chem ical, electrochemical, mechanical and/or physical treatment. The material to be treated may be contained in a transport capsule which may be equipped with aper- tures, or alternatively, a transport tube is perforated at the location of treatment tanks or treatment zones, wherein the material to be treated can be subjected to a treat ment. The material to be treated may be contained in a perforated transport capsule or a transport tube, by means of which the material is transported via liquids and/or gaseous fluids contained in tanks, whereby the material to be processed and being transported by the perforated transport capsule or transport tube can be subjected to the liquids and chemicals. If necessary, an anode and/or cathode voltage supply may be integrated in the transport capsule or transport tube to facilitate the applica tion of electrochemical and/or electrolysis-based methods on the material to be pro cessed.

An apparatus for treating solid material comprises

- one or more transport tubes configured to receive a unit dose of material to be treated,

- one or more treatment tanks and/or one or more treatment zones, and

- one or more sources (27a) of a moving force that can be applied to a unit dose of material to be treated, wherein the moving force is configured to transport the unit dose in the transport tube, wherein

- one or more of the transport tubes are connected to at least one treatment tank for moving the unit dose of material to be treated along the transport tube to the treatment tank, wherein the treatment tank and/or the treatment zone comprises processing means for carrying out one of the following treatments: a chemical treat ment, an electrochemical treatment, irradiation, or a visual treatment.

A method for treating solid material comprises:

- providing the apparatus for treating material;

- providing one or more unit doses of material to be treated;

- inserting the one or more unit doses of material to be treated in at least one transport tube of the apparatus;

- subjecting the one or more unit doses of material to be treated to a moving force, for transferring it/them to one or more treatment tanks and/or to one or more treat ment zones; - treating the material to be treated in the at least one treatment tank and/or in the one or more treatment zones, to obtain treated material, wherein the treatment is selected from chemical treatment, electrochemical treatment, irradiation, or visual treatment. Furthermore, disclosed is recovery of substances from material to be treated, as well as utilization of electrochemical methods for coating, de-coating and/or cleaning of materials.

The main embodiments are presented in the independent claims. Other embodi ments are presented in the dependent claims. The embodiments and examples pre sented in the claims and the description may be combined, where applicable, unless otherwise specified.

The apparatus and the method enable the movement of material rapidly (typically at a speed of about 5 to 7 m/s), and a safer way of transferring material to be pro cessed between different process steps, compared with apparatuses and/or meth ods of prior art. The transfer of material between different process steps is so rapid that the time taken in the transfer is irrelevant with respect to the times required for the treatments. Because the apparatus is substantially closed, drawbacks such as odours and the risk of exposure to chemicals or other hazardous conditions are significantly reduced.

The apparatus and the method make it possible to improve the optimization of the dimensions of the space used, and to design a modular structure of the apparatus. It is possible to place part of the apparatus in different spaces and/or on different height levels, which facilitates the management and safety of the spaces and the process. Because the material is moved rapidly in tubes between the process steps, the different treatments or other steps do not have to be arranged in the immediate vicinity of each other but they can be distributed. For example, treatments requiring the use of hazardous substances or irradiation can be arranged in a space or a building completely separated from the other treatments, for example at a long dis tance and/or in a closed space. Similarly, the production, pre-treatment, packaging, and/or actual processing of raw material can take place in separate locations. For example in the mining industry, the raw material is excavated underground, crushed at ground level, and processed in yet another location.

Thanks to its closed structure, the apparatus is safer and makes it possible to implement a continuous and automated processing line. The apparatus can be implemented in existing facilities, and the lead-in of the tubes through walls or cor responding structures is relatively simple and does not require significant modifica- tion or demolition of structures. The apparatus can also be implemented in existing treatment tanks, wherein the transport system of an old technology can be replaced by building up a new closed system.

Particularly in a pneumatic system with a tube conveyor shifting mechanism or the like, a single source of a moving force will be sufficient for operating several transport tubes, possibly the whole apparatus. This is cost efficient and space saving. It is also possible to multiply process lines, wherein the supply of material can be implemented by the same source of moving force by adding conveyor mech anisms and tubes. The apparatus and the method make it possible to use very different source mate rials of very different type and nature, to process large pieces as well as raw mate rials in small particle size and in powder form, for example by dissolving methods or by electrolytic/electrochemical methods.

Brief description of the drawings Figure 1 shows an example of a transport tube with a perforated structure.

Figure 2 shows an example of a transport tube when opened.

Figure 3 shows an example of a transport tube with its lid opened.

Figure 4 shows an example of a transport tube with a conductive metal anode/cathode coating integrated in its inner surface. Figure 5 shows an overview of an example apparatus.

Figure 6 illustrates power supply from a power source to an anode conductor and a cathode.

Figures 7a, 7b, 7c, and 7d show examples of tube conveyors of an apparatus.

Figures 8a, 8b and 8c show examples of process tanks of an apparatus. Figure 9 shows examples of docking stations for a transport capsule in an appa ratus.

Figure 10 shows an example in which a process tank is provided with integrated power supply to a cathode and an anode, for chemical processes. Figures 1 1 a and 1 1 b show examples of apparatuses.

Figures 12a and 12b show examples of apparatuses.

Figure 13 shows an example of making a perforated transport tube airtight.

Figure 14 shows a top perspective view of an example of an anode-cathode system for recovering metals in ionic form by applying electrochemical methods, the system comprising a cylindrical cathode structure rotated by a motor, and a stationary anode structure suitably spaced from the cathode.

Detailed description

This application presents a device/an apparatus and a method for treating material chemically and/or physically. In the device/apparatus, the material to be treated is configured to move automatically or semi-automatically in a closed space between one or more treatment tanks, such as processing tank or reservoir, washing tank or reservoir, waste and/or storage tank or reservoir, as well as between a system for supplying material to be treated, in a transport tube, either in a separate transport capsule or without a transport capsule.

In the method, the material to be treated is moved automatically or semi-automati- cally in a closed space between one or more treatment tanks, such as treatment tank or reservoir, washing tank or reservoir, waste and/or storage tank or reservoir, as well as a system for supplying material to be treated, in a transport tube, either in a separate transport capsule or without a transport capsule. The method can be carried out by the apparatus described herein.

The application also presents a method for recovering a substance or substances from the material. The material can be recovered by a treatment described herein, and by utilizing an apparatus described herein. From the material to be treated, it is possible to recover one or more substances, such as precious metals, rare earth metals and/or other substances which can further be recycled for reuse. The sub stance to be recovered can be recovered from a treatment tank, for example from a liquid or a precipitation therein. For the recovery, it is possible to utilize electrolytic methods, such as electrowinning; scavenger technology, such as ionic scavengers; precipitation; and other suitable methods.

The apparatus for treating material comprises one or more transport tubes config ured to receive material to be treated, one or more treatment tanks or treatment zones, and a source of a moving force to be applied to the material to be treated, wherein the moving force is configured to transport the material to be treated in a transport tube, wherein one or more transport tubes are connected to at least one treatment tank, for transferring material to be treated along the transport tube to the treatment tank.

The method for processing material comprises: providing the apparatus as pre sented herein; providing material to be treated, preferably solid material; inserting said material to be treated in at least one transport tube of the apparatus; applying a moving force on the material to be treated, for transferring it to at least one treat ment tank; and treating the material to be treated in at least one treatment tank, wherein treated material is obtained. During the process, one or more substances or compounds in solid or soluble form may be released from the solid material.

The transport capsule used in the apparatus and in the method is provided with apertures, or alternatively, the hollow transport tube in the process tank is perfo rated, so that the material to be processed can be subjected to a chemical and/or physical treatment via the apertures or perforations when the capsule is in the pro cess tank. Preferably, the average diameter of the perforations or apertures in the transport capsule or the tube in the process tank is always selected to be smaller than the dimensions of the piece to be processed, or the average diameter of a particle to be processed, for example 1 to 10 mm. The perforation or the aperture may have a circular, oval, slot-like, or different shape. The dimensions presented herein refer to the largest diameter of the aperture. If the material is packed individ ually or in a bag within the transport capsule, the transport capsule may have a more open structure, whereby it may comprise one or more larger apertures or openings, for example in an average size of 5 to 100 mm, or it may comprise a structure which is cage-like in whole or in part.

The material to be treated, i.e. the starting material, may be solid material or bulk material, such as industrial waste or recyclable material and/or metal-containing material, for example one or more of the following: electric and/or electronic waste, metal waste, material from the mining industry, such as ore, material to be coated. It is also possible to treat other suitable materials, such as waste, recyclable mate rials and the like, in a similar way. The material to be treated may be crushed, gran ulated, ground, or pulverized to intensify the treatment. The material to be treated in solid form is in particulate form, and preferably the material does not essentially contain liquid, such as water. The content of water may be less than 10 wt-%, less than 5 wt-%, less than 1 wt-%, or less than 0.5 wt-%. In general, the average particle size of the material to be treated may range from micrometres to centimetres, for example from 10 pm to 10 cm. In the case of ground or pulverized material, the average particle size is generally less than 1 mm, for example less than 500 pm, or less than 100 pm, for example 20 to 500 pm, or 20 to 100 pm. The method may comprise crushing, grinding or pulverizing of the material, for example before bring ing it to a unit dose form. The apparatus may comprise one or more devices for crushing, grinding or pulverizing the material, such as one or more crushers, com- minutors, or corresponding devices.

The apparatus for treating material comprises one or more transport tubes config ured to receive one or more unit doses of the material to be treated. The unit dose refers to a given quantity of the material to be treated, such as a predetermined constant quantity which may refer to weight, volume or quantity of pieces, for exam ple the quantity of particles, granules or other pieces, for example the quantity of pieces produced by crushing. In the method, several unit doses may be treated, generally depending on the quantity of the material to be treated, and on the capac ity of the apparatus. In applicable implementations, it is also possible to transfer a continuous flow of bulk material in a tube. Several unit doses may be of the same size or substantially the same size with each other. A unit dose of the material to be treated may comprise not only the material to be treated but also a transport capsule for the material, such as a perforated transport capsule containing the batch of the material. The unit dose of the material to be treated may comprise, alternatively, a fixed unit or a batch of loose material to be treated. The unit dose of the material to be treated is fitted to be held in the transport tube or transport tubes of the apparatus. The diameter of a unit dose may be smaller, for example 1 to 10 mm smaller, 1 to 5 mm smaller, or 1 to 3 mm smaller, than the inner diameter of the transport tube. The diameter of the parts, particles or the like in the unit dose has to be such that they fit in the transport tube and can move in it. Depending on the moving force used, the diameter of the unit dose may also be smaller. When overpressure is used, for example pressurized air, or a vacuum, it is advantageous that the differ ence between the diameter of the unit dose and the inner diameter of the transport tube is relatively small, so that the pressure provides efficient propulsion. The unit dose may have an elongated shape; for example, its length may be 2 to 5 times the outer diameter.

The transport capsule may be cylindrical or tubular. The transport capsule is gener ally partly open, for example equipped with apertures or perforations, to enable treatment of the material in the capsule. The material of the capsule may be any suitable material that withstands the treatment to which the material is subjected to, such as a metal, plastic, or composite material. The transport capsule may comprise one or more gaskets to minimize the clearance between the transport capsule and the transport tube, but allowing the transport capsule to move forward smoothly in the tube. The gasket may consist of a material that does not cause significant fric tion. The gasket may be arranged in annular zones around the transport capsule, for example one gasket at or close to each end of the transport capsule. The gasket should withstand the treatment to which the material is subjected to, for example a chemical treatment. The transport capsule may comprise one or more bearings or bearing elements, such as a circumferential bearing, to minimize the friction between the transport capsule and the transport tube.

In an embodiment, the material to be treated is contained in a transport capsule. The transport capsule can make it possible for the unit dose to proceed efficiently in the tube system, and it may facilitate the material to remain in the unit dose form. The apparatus may be provided for use with one or more transport capsules. The transport capsules may be identical or different. It is possible to provide various transport capsules for the same apparatus, for example capsules intended merely for transporting purposes, and processing capsules. Processing capsules may be provided, for example, with an anode and a cathode, such as a central pin forming the anode and a surrounding frame formed by the cathode, or processing material or an active component may be included, such as one or more reacting chemicals, a trapping material, a catalyst, for example an ionic scavenger, an ion exchanger, or the like. A processing and/or active material can also be included in carrier pieces, for example pieces made of plastic or another suitable material, which may provide reaction surface area and/or act as a flow-through filter. The processing or active material may react with a liquid used in the treatment, and/or it may react with a substance or substances to be recovered from the material, for example with a metal in ionic form. Consequently, the apparatus can be used for subjecting the same material to various treatments, such as dissolution, electrolysis, ionic scavenging, ion exchange, absorption, adsorption, and the like.

In another embodiment, the material to be treated is not provided in a transport capsule. In this case, the material to be treated may be provided in a fixed unit or in a batch of loose material. The fixed unit may be, for example, a unit compressed of loose material, such as a batch-like unit or entity which stays together and which can be handled without a transport capsule. The fixed unit may be enclosed in a package or a bag, wherein it comprises an enclosing structure holding the unit together, such as a mesh, a thread, a band, a bag, or a corresponding binding struc ture, or it may be provided without one. Crushed, ground or pulverized material with a small particle size, such as smaller than 1 mm, can be packed or enclosed in a suitable permeable material, such as cloth, gauze or mesh made of, for example, textile or plastic, for example in a Nylon mesh or gauze which may be provided in the form of a closable bag. Material packed or bagged in this way may also be con tained in transport capsules described herein. One example of a pulverized material is waste from the electronics industry which contains residues from electronic com ponents, circuit boards and the like, including plastics, metals and the like, and which may be ground into a powder in the order of micrometers, for example to an average particle size smaller than 100 pm. Applying a fixed unit may facilitate the management of the process, for example, when the material is suitable to be pro vided in fixed units, and/or if such a unit can or is to be disintegrated during the process. A batch of loose material can be kept as a separate batch with the used transport method, for example by means of a material transport space provided by the transport method or apparatus, for example by means of a space left between rollers in a tubular roller conveyor. In such a solution, the transport tube has to be provided with openings, such as perforations, at the location of the treatment tank or another treatment zone, to make treatment of the material possible.

The apparatus may comprise a system or device 34 for feeding and/or filling the transport capsule, which system or device may be provided with a material con tainer, such as a feeding container and/or funnel, from which the material is config ured to be introduced into a transport capsule to be filled, as shown in Fig. 5. A predetermined quantity of material can be packed into the transport capsule on the basis of, for example, the weight, volume, or one or more properties of the material. The feeding and/or filling system may comprise one or more devices for transferring transport capsules from the feeding to the next step, for example turning platforms shown in Figs. 5 and 9, which may comprise one or more docking stations for receiving transport capsules, one or more devices for opening and/or closing cap sules, and/or one or more devices for transferring capsules in the feeding and/or filling system. The apparatus may also comprise a system for packing and/or bag ging the material to be treated, instead of or in addition to the feeding and/or filling system.

The turning platform may be provided with, or it may be connected to, one or more actuators, such as an electric motor, configured to move, e.g. to turn and/or tilt, the turning platform. The turning platform may be provided with a shaft and thereby configured to be rotatable or turnable. One or more actuators may be connected to one or more control units for controlling the actuator/actuators. Corresponding turn ing platforms may also be applied in other parts of the apparatus, such as in tanks.

A packed transport capsule may be configured to be moved forward, for example into a storage space or to be input in a transport tube and to be moved further for treatment. In an example (Fig. 5), a filled unit dose is input in a transport tube leading to a tube shifter, where the unit dose is guided by the tube shifter to the next transport tube and along the same for treatment. A device for feeding and/or filling a transport capsule, or a storage of raw material to be processed, may be located in a space physically apart from the apparatus for processing the material; for example, they can be distant from each other, or they can be placed in the same facilities. The apparatuses may be configured to be functionally connected to each other.

The material to be treated may be pre-treated before the actual treatment in the apparatus. The pre-treatment may comprise, for example, a cooling or freezing treatment. The pre-treatment may be based on a dry ice blasting technique, in which the effect of cleaning and removing the surface layer is based on the dirt-removing properties of kinetic energy, cold temperature and vaporization. The apparatus may comprise means for feeding dry ice, liquid nitrogen or the like to the material to be treated, whereby the means may be arranged in the feeding and/or filling system, or upstream of it.

A transport tube may be a tube made of any suitable material and generally having a cylindrical shape, for example a plastic tube, a metal tube, a composite material tube, or a glass tube, the tube being hollow. The transport tube may be transparent, which makes it possible to monitor the travel of the material and the operation of the apparatus. The inner diameter of the transport tube may be 5 to 100 cm, for example 10 to 100 cm or 10 to 50 cm in large industrial applications, such as applications of the mining industry, or 5 to 20 cm or 10 to 30 cm in applications of circular economy, for example. The outer diameter of the transport tube is larger, depending on the thickness of the wall of the tube. Because the diameter of the transport tubes can be kept relatively small, this enables efficient management of space utilization and safe operation, maintenance and monitoring of the apparatus during the process. The transport tube may be straight, or it may comprise one or more bends or curves but in such a way that a unit dose can move forward even in the bends of the tube. The transport tube has a first end and a second end. The first end is the end con figured to receive a unit dose of untreated material, or the end in which said material to be treated is inserted and which the material leaves for processing. The second end of the transport tube is generally the end on the side of a treatment tank.

In the apparatus, one or more transport tubes are connected to at least one treat ment tank, for moving a unit dose of material to be treated along the transport tube to the treatment tank. One or more treatment tanks may be provided, and they may be identical or different. The apparatus may comprise one or more transport tubes and treatment tanks, for example so that one tube leads to one treatment tank, as shown in Fig. 5, for example. The transport tubes are thus arranged so that material can be transferred to desired locations and in a desired order in the tubes. At the end of the transport tube on the side of the treatment tank, means for slowing down the speed of the unit dose may be provided, for example a stopping module or means for providing an air brake. The unit dose can be conveyed from the tube into the treatment tank. As an alternative to the treatment tank, the apparatus may be provided with one or more treatment zones, particularly when no chem ical contained in a tank is needed for the treatment. The apparatus may be provided with one or more treatment tanks as well as one or more treatment zones. A treatment zone is provided with treating means for treating the material. The tube may also be pro vided with a perforated section which may be closable and openable, and via which a unit dose can be treated in the transport tube.

A perforated section of the transport tube may be enclosed by a receptacle, for example a tube parallel with the transport tube and having a larger diameter, whereby the space left between the transport tube and the enclosing tube can con stitute a treatment tank and/or a treatment zone. The length of this section may be as long as several meters, for example 30 to 1000 cm, such as 50 to 500 cm. The outer, larger tube may be closed at its ends, to provide a closed space. The space can be equipped with a chemical circulation, for example, in the direction against the travel direction of the unit doses.

The apparatus may be provided with one or more means for connecting several tubes functionally to each other, for example a line shifter or a tube shifting mecha nism, which may comprise, for example, a tube shifter coupled to two or more transport tubes, for inserting a unit dose of material to be treated into the desired transport tube. The tube shifter comprises a movable tubular element which is con trolled by an actuator and whose position can be changed so that it can be con nected to different transport tubes, for example two or more transport tubes. In this way, it is possible to control the travel of a unit dose in an apparatus comprising several transport tubes. The unit dose can travel in two directions in the tube system, whereby it can leave a tube shifter for a first transport tube, and travel along the same to a first treatment tank, in which it is subjected to a first treatment. After this, the treated unit dose can be directed along the same transport tube back to the tube shifter by reversing the direction of the moving force. After this, the unit dose can be directed by the tube shifter to a second transport tube, along which it travels to a second treatment tank, in which it is subjected to a second treatment. Correspond ing steps can be repeated as many times as necessary, depending on the number of different treatments and treatment tanks and transport tubes. By the apparatus, it is possible to carry out, for example, two, three, four, five, or six treatments, which may be different, or partly or entirely similar. The actuator of the tube shifter, such as an electric motor, may be connected to one or more control units for controlling the actuator. Systems comprising several independent lines can be functionally con nected by means of line shifters.

The material is arranged to be treated in a treatment tank. The treatment may be a chemical treatment, an electrochemical treatment, a mechanical treatment, or a physical treatment, or a combination of these. The apparatus comprises one or more treatment tanks comprising treatment means for carrying out any of the following treatments: a chemical treatment, an electrochemical treatment, a mechanical treat ment, a physical treatment. Consequently, the treatment may be selected from a chemical treatment, an electrochemical treatment, a mechanical treatment, or a physical treatment, such as irradiation or a visual treatment. The treatment may also be called processing, particularly if the structure of the material is changed in the treatment, for example in a chemical or electrochemical treatment or process. Within the treatment tank, a docking station may be provided and configured to receive a unit dose. Within the treatment tank, means for moving a unit dose in the tank may be provided, for example a turning platform with one or more openings or a docking station for a unit dose. The turning platform may be rotatable or pivotable, and it may be movable in the vertical direction. This enables the management and move ment of several unit doses simultaneously in the tank, and/or the transfer of unit doses to another step, for example to the next transport tube or moving device. The treatment may also be washing, for example before or after a chemical treatment, or between chemical treatments. In such a case, the treatment tank may be a wash ing tank.

In one embodiment, the treatment comprises a chemical treatment. The treatment tank may thus be, in its simplest form, a chemical tank, a processing reservoir, or the like. The material to be treated may move, for example, in an automated or semi- automated way in a closed space, in liquids of at least one processing reservoir, in liquids of a washing reservoir, between a waste and/or storage container and a sys tem for feeding material to be processed. The treatment means for carrying out a chemical treatment may comprise the treatment tank itself, and/or one or more chemical sources, and for example one or more mixers, heaters, sensors, outlets, and/or the like. The chemical source may comprise a chemical tank connected to the treatment tank via an opening and/or a tube, for example via an openable and closable valve therein. The chemical used may be a solution or dispersion of one or more chemicals, aqueous or based on an organic solvent. Examples of suitable chemicals include acids, bases, electrolytes, salts, and washing solutions, such as water or another aqueous solution.

In an embodiment, the treatment comprises an electrochemical treatment. The treat ment means for an electrochemical treatment may comprise one or more sources of electricity, electrode, such as an anode and/or a cathode, treatment tank, and/or source of one or more chemicals, such as an electrolyte, and, for example, one or more mixers, heaters, sensors, outlets, and/or the like.

In an embodiment, the treatment comprises a physical treatment. The physical treat ment may be, for example, a visual treatment, irradiation, heating, cooling, and/or another non-invasive treatment. The treatment means for the physical treatment may comprise one or more light sources, radiation sources, radio wave sources, heat sources, cooling sources, and/or the like. The treatment means may also com prise one or more sensors, cameras, microscopes, or the like for receiving light, radiation or radio waves from the treatment, and/or one or more analysing devices. Irradiation or another non-invasive method can be used, for example, for analysing the material, for example for determining metal contents and/or for identifying the metals present. The analysis may be, for example, a spectral analysis. The radiation may be, for example, radio emission, x-ray emission, or gamma emission. In an example, untreated material, such as a unit dose of it, is first analysed for determin ing the substances contained in it, after which the material is directed to one or more treatments, and finally the treated material is re-analysed in the same way. In this way, it is possible to evaluate the efficiency of the treatment/treatments and, for example, the content of substances that can be recovered. When strong radiation is used, it may be necessary to encapsulate the treatment zone, for example by means of concrete or metal walls, and/or to arrange the treatment zone in a location separate from other treatment zones or zones where people are working. This is possible when transport tubes are used because the material transfer time in the transport tube will not become a bottleneck of the treatment method in the present system.

In an embodiment, the treatment comprises a mechanical treatment. The mechani cal treatment may be invasive, wherein the material is first treated by using one or more mechanical means, such as a comminutor, crusher, bore, grinding device, or the like. The mechanical means is generally connected to an actuator which, in turn, may be connected to one or more control units for controlling the actuator.

In addition to the actual treatment tanks, the apparatus may comprise one or more discharging tanks, waste tanks and/or storage tanks, in which the material can be output, generally at the end of the treatment. At this stage, the material contained in the transport capsules can be removed from the capsule. The discharging tank, waste tank and/or storage tank can be transportable to another location, it can be openable, and/or the material entered in it can be removed from an outlet in the tank. The material to be removed may be waste.

The material to be treated is moved in the apparatus by a transporting force which may also be called a moving force. The apparatus comprises one or more sources of a moving force, such as a source of a moving force that can be applied on a unit dose of the material to be treated, wherein the moving force is configured to transport the unit dose in the transport tube. The device or apparatus presented herein, comprising a transport tube or a transport tube system, and connected to a source of a moving force, can be called a tube conveyor. The source of the moving force may be, for example, selected from a source of a pneumatic force, such as a source of overpressure, or a source of underpressure, for example a compressed- air tank, a compressor or a fan; a mechanical conveyor; and a source of a magnetic field, such as a magnetic conveyor. In a corresponding manner, the moving force may be selected from under or overpressure, a mechanical force, and a magnetic force, such as a magnetic field. The direction of the moving force may be arranged to be reversible, for example by reversing the direction of a gas flow, or the running direction of a mechanical or magnetic conveyor, so that unit doses can be trans ferred in the desired direction in the tube system.

In an embodiment, the moving force is gas pressure, such as an overpressure or underpressure. The movement of the material to be treated can be provided pneu matically by applying gas pressure and flow, for example by means of underpres sure or overpressure produced by the source of the moving force, such as under pressure or overpressure produced by a fan. Overpressure can also be produced by a compression pump, and it may be supplied by a compressed-air tank which may be connected to the compression pump. The gas to be applied may be air, or it may be an inert gas, such as a noble gas. The source of the moving force may be connected to one or more control units for controlling the source of the force.

A pneumatic tube system may comprise a fan or another suitable source of the force which is functionally connected to one or more transport tubes, to supply the tube with an overpressure or an underpressure, for example at the end of the tube or close to its end. The direction of the fan can be reversed as needed, whereby the direction of travel of a unit dose in the tube can be reversed. The speed of the fan can also be adjusted, for example by means of a frequency converter connected to the fan, whereby the travel speed of a unit dose in the transport tube can be con trolled, for example slowed down, when needed. Moreover, the transport tube may be provided with one or more valves for releasing pressure from the tube. For example, when a dose unit travelling in the tube is approaching its destination, the control unit may detect this by means of a sensor in the system and, in response, open a valve, whereby pressure in the tube is released and the speed of the unit dose is slowed down. The travel of a unit dose can also be stopped by providing a so-called air brake at the end of the tube, that is, by closing the end of the tube, for example by closing a valve therein, such as a motor valve, whereby so high an overpressure is formed at the end of the tube, in front of the unit dose, that it slows down and eventually stops the travel of the unit dose in the tube, particularly when the space between the unit dose and the tube is sufficiently small.

In an embodiment, the apparatus comprises

- one or more transport tubes (12) configured to receive a unit dose (10) of material to be treated, provided in e.g. a capsule or a package or a bag;

- one or more treatment tanks (29, 30, 31 ); and

- a source (27a) of a moving pneumatic force to be applied onto the unit dose of material to be treated, for example an underpressure or an overpressure, whereby the moving force is configured to convey the unit dose in a transport tube, wherein

- one or more transport tubes are connected to at least one treatment tank for mov ing the unit dose of material to be treated, along the transport tube to the treatment tank. In an embodiment, the moving force is a mechanical force, such as a mechanical propulsion or pulling effective on the unit dose. The motion of the material to be treated can be effected by one or more mechanical conveyors. In an example, the mechanical conveyor is a roller conveyor, such as a tube roller conveyor. When a roller conveyor is applied, the material to be treated does not necessarily be pro vided in a transport capsule but it may be a fixed unit of the material to be treated, or even material to be treated in loose form, such as in the form of a batch of loose material, particularly in the case of a tube roller conveyor. A mechanical conveyor may comprise one or more actuators, for example an electric motor, configured to drive the conveyor mechanism. One or more actuators may be connected to one or more control units for controlling the actuator.

In general, the transport may take place in both the horizontal and the vertical direc tion, as well as in combinations of these, which makes it possible to optimize the structure of the processing apparatus with respect to the dimensions of the produc tion facilities. Treatment tanks, such as process tanks, washing tanks, as well as waste and/or storage tanks, can be positioned next to and/or on top of each other. Suction or overpressure can be applied by a tube shifter for moving materials to be treated on several different processing lines in parallel.

In addition to transport tubes, the apparatus may also comprise other transport sys tems, for example within a treatment tank, in the tube shifter, or between two treat ment tanks. Other transport systems may comprise, for example, a linear moving device or another mechanical moving device, a lifting device, or a conveyor, such as a belt conveyor, a roller conveyor, a vibrating conveyor, a conveyor controlled by a robot, or the like. The transport system comprises one or more actuators for driving these, such as an electric motor, and it may comprise one or more gripping means for gripping a unit dose. Within a treatment tank, a unit dose can be moved from a transport tube for treatment and/or back. Between two treatment tanks, for example one or more linear moving devices may be provided for moving a unit dose from a first treatment tank to a second treatment tank. These transport systems or moving devices may also be connected to one or more control units for controlling them.

In an embodiment, the moving force is a magnetic force, such as a magnetic field. In this case, the unit dose of material to be treated has to react to the magnetic field. The material, as such, may be magnetic, for example containing ferromagnetic material; or a transport capsule reacting to a magnetic field can be used, for example of transport capsule containing ferromagnetic metal, such as iron, or a magnetic transport capsule. The transport capsule may comprise, for example, one or more permanent magnets. Correspondingly, a transport tube may be provided with one or more coils, for example around the tube, the coils being connected to a current supply which is configured to generate a magnetic field or magnetic fields for moving a unit dose in the transport tube. This assembly may constitute a source of a mag netic field. By controlling the generating of magnetic fields and/or their order in rela tion to time and place, for example by pulsation, it is possible to generate a magnetic force effective in the tube, for moving the unit dose in a desired direction in the tube. The source of a magnetic field arranged in the transport tube may be connected to one or more control units for controlling the magnetic field.

The system comprises actuators which provide functions of the system, such as moving of parts. The actuators may be electric, such as an electric motor, or they may be electronically controllable, for example by means of an electronic switch. Examples of electric motors include a servo motor and a stepper motor, provided with a separate control unit or circuit for the motor. The actuators are connected to an electric system, and they may be controllable by one or more control units, for providing the desired function.

The apparatus may comprise one or more shakers, vibrators, mixers, rotators, or corresponding devices for intensifying the contact and thereby the reactions between the material and a liquid. These devices may be connected to one or more actuators which may be controllable by one or more control units, for providing the desired function. Furthermore, the apparatus may comprise one or more damping units or dampers for preventing or reducing the entry of vibration, or the like, in the other parts of the apparatus.

The apparatus may comprise one or more control units configured to control one or more components of the apparatus, such as an actuator, a switch, a heater, a valve, a sensor, a camera, and/or the like. The control unit may be arranged in connection with the component controlled by it, or it may be connected to it by cabling or in a wireless manner. The control unit may comprise one or more computers with a pro cessor, a memory, software, and possibly a user interface, such as a display, a touch display, and/or a keypad. The software is configured to perform one or more control functions when it is run by the processor. Control operation may comprise the control or use of an actuator or another device effective on the operation of the system, such as turning on or off of power in the actuator, adjusting of the speed of the actuator, controlling of the operation of a heater or a cooler, or the like. The apparatus may comprise one or more sensors configured to monitor the status of the system or the conditions, such as the temperature, moisture, pH, the motion of a part in the system, the presence of a unit dose, an image, and/or other information. A sensor may comprise, for example, a switch, a temperature sensor, a moisture sensor, a pH sensor, a motion sensor, a camera, a light sensor, or another sensor. One or more control units may be configured to receive information detected by one or more sensors and, on the basis of and in response to the information, preferably on the basis of a programmable or programmed logic, to perform one or more con trol operations on the system.

In applications of processing pulverized material or particles of small size, a perfo rated transport capsule or transport tube can, if necessary, be lined with a gauze like material, wherein the mesh size of the gauze is smaller than the diameter of the particles to be processed. A unit dose of material without a transport capsule can also be lined in a similar way.

In applications based on electrolytic methods, a perforated transport capsule or a perforated tube immersed in fluid contained in a process tank can be supplied with a positive or, alternatively, a negative terminal voltage from a power source via a metal conductor. The process, particularly a chemical process, can be intensified by installing a vibrating actuator and/or by providing a suitable rotating mechanism for mixing the material to be processed, for a perforated tube or transport capsule in the liquid contained in the process tank.

Compressed air or other gas from a low-pressure or high-pressure fan used for moving a transport capsule can also be used for mixing the liquid in process tanks and for purifying the material to be processed from the liquids of the process tank by guiding the compressed air produced by a fan via suitable nozzles and/or an air knife either to the process liquid or the material to be processed.

Chemical dissolution of the material to be treated or processed, and electrowinning of metals dissolved in the liquid and present in ionic form can, if necessary, be implemented in the same tank, such as a process reservoir, in successive or parallel process steps, whereby a smaller space requirement and a more cost-efficient solution are achieved.

In this context, the terms "material to be treated" or "material to be processed" refer to various particles, piece goods, parts, and other pieces of various sizes. Examples of material to be treated or processed include electronic waste material with noble metal coating, and crushed and/or pulverized ore. In the mining industry, excavated ore is crushed into pieces of smaller size classes in connection with various process steps and, if necessary, pulverized before the step of chemical or electrochemical extraction of basic metals, rare earth metals and precious metals. In applications of the mining industry, the method and/or the apparatus can also be utilized for trans portation, extraction and processing of metals and minerals contained in crushed or pulverized ore.

The method and/or the apparatus can be utilized for chemical treatment of material to be processed in liquids or gaseous fluids. Applications also include coating of particles, piece goods, parts, and other pieces of various sizes, removing of a coat, and recovery of metals in ionic form in a liquid, in methods based on electrolysis. The method and/or the apparatus also has applications in electrochemical synthe ses, fluidized bed applications, electropolishing, anodizing, coating of polymers based on electrophoresis techniques, and/or physical coating. The method and the apparatus can be applied, for example, in utilizing electrochemical methods for coat ing of materials, removal of coatings, and/or cleaning.

Example

Example implementations will be described in more detail in the following, with ref erence to Figures 1 to 14 and the numbering used therein.

Material (7) to be treated is moved in at least one closed transport tube (12) between at least one treatment tank, such as a process tank (29), a washing tank (30), a storage and/or waste container (31 ), and a dispensing system (34). In an example, the apparatus arrangement comprises and/or is configured to receive at least one transport capsule (10) comprising a perforated or partly open (3) hollow cylinder (2). One end or both ends of the cylinder may be provided with lid parts (1 ), of which at least one is openable. The structure of the cylinder enables a chemical and/or phys ical treatment of the material (7) to be treated, contained in the transport capsule (10). In an example, both ends of the cylinder (2) of the perforated transport capsule (10) are provided with slide bearings (1 b). Examples of transport capsules are shown in Figures 1 to 4.

One example relates to an apparatus and/or a method for a chemical treatment of a material in liquids and/or gaseous fluids. One example relates to an apparatus and/or a method for coating, decoating and purification of a material processed by an electrolysis method, and for recovering metals present in ionic form in liquids.

In the apparatus and the method, one or more transport capsules (10) are moved in a hollow transport tube system (12) between a system (34) for feeding and/or filling transport capsules, one or more process tanks (29), one or more washing tanks (30) and/or one or more storage and/or waste containers (31 ).

In an apparatus according to one example, the hollow transport tube (12) is perfo rated with openings (3) at sections of the transport tube (12) located in the liquid (28) and/or below the liquid surface (57) in the process tank (29) and the washing tank (30), enabling entry of chemicals and/or washing liquids (28) to materials (7) to be processed.

In the example shown in Figure 5, the system (34) for feeding and/or filling the transport capsule (10) comprises a module (1 1 ) for keeping the transport capsule (10) stationary and for automatic closing of the lid (1 ) of the transport capsule; a turning platform (9) for transport capsules, with docking stations and/or holders for receiving one or more transport capsules; a stationary platform (42) placed under the turning platform and provided with a through-hole (37) for a transport capsule; a rotary shaft (14) coupled to the turning platform; and a bracket (13) mounted on bearings on the shaft (14) and connected to a bearing frame structure (43). A motor control unit integrated in a programmable logic (19) measures the rotation angle of the shaft and adjusts the position of the turning platform (9) by means of the motor (17). A power transmission (16) and a suitable gearing (15) are connected between the shaft (18) rotated by the motor and the shaft (14) of the turning platform. The system (34) for filling transport capsules comprises a material supply tank (6); an inlet and/or tube (8) in the tank; and a shaker (40) with an integrating vibrating unit; as well as a dispensing system (41 ) based on weight, level, volume measurement or material analysis; and a programmable logic (19), under whose control the mate rial (7) to be processed is configured to be directed to a transport capsule (10) to be filled; a module (1 1 ) for keeping the transport capsule (10) stationary and for auto matic closing of the lid (1 ), arranged to close the lid of the filled transport capsule and to release the transport capsule to enter a hollow transport tube (12). The travel of the transport capsule (10) can be monitored and controlled by means of the pro grammable logic (19) and signal connections (35) between sensors (33) connected to the transport tubes (12). In the process tank (29) and the washing tank (30), the programmable logic (19) and the motor drive can be used for controlling the platform (27) turned by a servo and/or stepper motor and equipped with one or more docking stations and/or holders (71 ) for transport capsules (10), for fastening the cap sule/capsules to the turning platform (27) for the time of the processing. A linear hoisting/lowering mechanism (25) may be fastened to the turning platform (27), for driving an actuator, such as a servo motor and/or stepper motor linear guide actua- tor, a screw hoist or a pneumatic hoist. The shaft of the hoisting means may be equipped with a shaker component (40) for intensifying the process and a vibration damper (38) for restraining the propagation of vibration to the hoisting device (25). The shaft of the hoisting device may be equipped with a motorized rotation mecha nism for rotating the turning platform (27), for directing a transport capsule (10), arriving from the transport tubes (12) at a process tank or a washing tank, to docking stations and/or holders (71 ) in the turning platform (27). In the docking stations and/or holders (71 ) for transport capsules (10) in the turning platform (27), a sepa rate rotation mechanism may be positioned for intensifying the mixing of a chemical into the material (7) to be processed. Placed in parallel with and being equal in length with an incoming and/or outgoing transport capsule (10), an air blowing noz zle (39) may be placed above the liquid (28) in a process tank (29) and a washing tank (30), for directing compressed air into rotating transport capsules fastened in docking stations on the platform (27), whereby compressed air from the nozzle is blown into the transport capsules, removing chemical and/or liquid residues from the surface of the materials (7) to be processed. A power source module (26) may comprise several voltage outputs, from which power can be supplied to a program mable logic (19), motors (17), sensors (33), fans (27a), actuators (25), control elec tronics, the anode and cathode supply of an electrolysis process, a frequency con verter (20), and/or other devices requiring electricity.

The movement of the material in the tube can be implemented by means of a mechanical tubular roller conveyor, as shown in Fig. 7a, wherein material (7) to be processed is guided from a feeding tank (6) by a dispensing apparatus (8) via a feeding tube (59) in the transport tube (12) to the tubular roller conveyor. The tubular roller conveyor comprises a cable and/or a chain (58) which is moved by a motor- driven conveyor wheel (52, 53, 54) inside the transport tube (12) and is provided with suitably spaced conveyor discs (50) for conveying material (7) to be processed between at least one process tank (29), a washing tank (30) and/or a discharging or storage container (31 ). A material transport space is formed in the space between the hollow transport tube (12) and the conveyor discs installed in the cable (58), and the perforation of its cylinder is implemented at the location of process tanks (29) and washing tanks (30), where the transport tube (12) is perforated. A vibrating mechanism (46) may be fastened to the hollow transport tube, and a rotating mech anism may be installed in a separate section of the perforated transport tube in the liquid, to make the processes more efficient. In an example, the movement of the material (7) to be treated in the transport tube (12) is implemented in such a way that the conveyor structure moving within the transport tube comprises structural units detaching from and/or attaching to each other by an automated mechanical and/or magnetic coupling (60), wherein the struc tural units attaching to and/or detaching from each other comprise a rigid cable structure (58) and conveyor discs (50). By means of such a structure, detaching units of the conveyor structure can be moved within the transport tube (12) equipped with perforations (3), by means of a hoisting and/or lowering device (25), into the liquids (28) in the process tank (29) and the washing tank (30) for processing and, after the processing, the detachable unit of the conveyor structure can be attached to the tube conveyor again, for conveying the material (7) to be processed via the transport tube (12) to the next process step.

In an example, the movement of the material (7) to be processed is implemented by undepressure or overpressure in the transport tube (12), without a transport capsule (10). Thus, that section of the transport tube (12) of the tubular roller conveyor which is to be immersed in the liquid is perforated; during the step of transport of the material (7) to be processed, the perforations are covered to be air-tight by placing movable tube sealing structures (73) tightly against gasket rings (76) in the transport tube by means of a linear moving device (25). For the time of being immersed in the liquid, the perforations in the transport tube are opened by moving the sealing structures (73) off the gasket rings (76). Both ends of the tube section to be immersed in the liquid may be provided with a closing flap mechanism (72) prevent ing the removal of the material (7) to be processed during the processing.

In an example, the process tank (29) has a structure where the process tank for the material (7) to be processed and the liquid tank are separated in separate tanks. An inlet pipe (66) for a fluid pump (68) is connected from the separate fluid tank to the fluid pump (68), and an outlet pipe for the fluid pump (68) is connected to a separate process tank (29), and an outlet pipe (69) from the process tank is connected as a back coupling to the separate fluid tank. For the time of processing the material (7) to be processed in the perforated transport capsule (10), the pump (68) is used for pumping liquid from the separate liquid tank to the separate process tank (29) at a suitable flow rate, and the liquid flows from the separate outlet pipe (69) of the pro cess tank back to the separate liquid tank. By adjusting the flow rate of the pump (68), the liquid level in the separate process tank (29) can be adjusted. In electro chemical applications, the process tank may be provided with an anode structure (4), a cathode structure (46), and terminal voltage inputs (44, 45) to the anode struc ture (4) and the cathode structure (46) from a power source.

In an example, a transport tube (12) is vertically connected between at least one process tank (29), a washing tank (30) and/or a waste and/or storage container. In an example, a transport tube (12) is horizontally connected between at least one process tank (29), a washing tank (30) and/or a waste and/or storage container.

In an example, for moving several transport capsules in parallel between several process tanks (29), washing tanks (30), discharging containers (31 ) and/or filling systems (34), the transportation is implemented by parallel processing lines, wherein transport capsule traffic in a single tube line is configured to take place in one direction only. The return traffic of a transport capsule (10) is implemented by another tube line.

In an example for processing pulverized material or particles of small size, a perfo rated transport capsule (10) or transport tube (12) is lined with a gauze-like material, wherein the mesh size of the gauze is smaller than the diameter of the pulverized material or particle to be processed.

In an example, the system (34) for feeding and filling transport capsules (10) is implemented by means of line shifting technology and by applying parallel pro cessing lines when a large number of transport capsules (10) is used in the pro cessing apparatus.

In an example, the force used for moving a transport capsule (10) in a transport tube (12) is provided by magnetic fields generated by permanent magnets fastened to the transport capsule (10) and terminal voltages connected to a coil/coils of one or more electric conductors wound around the transport tubes. The direction of the movement can be selected by changing the terminals of the voltage supplied to the conductors of the coils, and the movement of the transport tube can be activated by connecting a positive and a negative terminal to one coil in the transport tube, or by connecting the positive and negative terminals of the power source to the conduc tors of several coils at different times, in pulse-like sequences from one coil to another. The movement can be influenced by controlling the strength of the mag netic fields generated by the coils by adjusting the length and the diameter of the coil conductors, the voltage input in the coil conductors, and by controlling the cur rent and by adjusting the strength of the permanent magnets. In an example of electrochemical applications, a hollow cylindrical cathode structure (14) connected to the rotating shaft (18) of a motor (17) is used, which is provided with a negative terminal voltage supply (45) from a power source, and titanium coated anode structures (4) placed around the outer edge of the cylinder and spaced at a given distance from the outer edge of the cathode cylinder, which are provided with a positive terminal voltage supply (44) from the power source.

In an example, in a case of connecting a horizontal transport tube (12) to a process tank (29) and a washing tank (30), a number of perforated transport tubes (61 ) can be applied, which are placed in supporting structures fastened to a rotating shaft, and the transport tubes (61 ) are positioned in a circular array at a specific radius from the rotating shaft.

In an example, the surfaces of the material (7) to be treated are or have been pre treated by a method based on dry ice blasting technique, in which the effect of clean ing and removing the surface layer is based on the dirt-removing properties of kinetic energy, cold temperature and vaporization. Dry ice pellets of a small size, having a diameter of about 3 mm and frozen to a temperature of approximately -80°C, are typically blown at a rate of about 150 m/s into the material (7) to be processed; when impinging on the surface to be cleaned, they are immediately vaporized, removing coatings from the materials to be processed. Such a pre-treatment can be used to increase the efficiency of the apparatus and/or the method. During the pre-treatment of the surfaces of the material (7) to be treated, surfaces are cleaned from dirt or coatings are removed from coating materials decelerating and/or preventing chem ical and/or physical processes, such as from protective coating materials of circuit boards of electronic waste, which may include various varnish, plastic, epoxy, acrylic, silicone, and/or urethane coatings. After the removal of coatings, the pre treated material (7) to be processed is moved by a robot or a conveyor belt into the tank (6) of the feeding device for the actual main processing. Alternatively, the clean ing and/or removal of the coating can be performed by mechanical, such as abra sive, methods, for example by sandblasting, wet blasting, laser treatment, grinding treatment, or by applying surface treatment chemicals. In an example, the pre-treat ment of surfaces is integrated as a part of the apparatus and/or the method, whereby the pre-treatment of the surfaces of the material to be processed is automated, for example by means of a robot, and by conveying materials to be processed along an automated conveyor line to a surface treatment point.

In an example, the force moving the transport capsule (10) in the transport tube (12) is a suction or propulsive force supplied by at least one fan (27a). The travel speed of a transport capsule (10) can be adjusted by means of a frequency converter con nected to the fan (27a), and the travel direction of the transport capsule is controlled electronically by a controllable logic (19), by controlling the direction of suction or propulsion of the fan and by applying an air brake (36), if necessary.

In an example, the routing of the movement of the transport capsule is controlled by a motorized tube shifting mechanism (21 ) which has two or more positions and is operated by electronic control; by changing the position of the control tube (22) of the tube shifter (21 ) and by reversing the travel direction of the transport capsule under control by the programmable logic, the transport capsule (10) is moved between at least one process tank (29), washing tank (30) and/or discharging con tainer (31 ).

In an example, tubes (15, 24) are connected between the outlets of a process tank (29) or a washing tank (30) and the tube shifting mechanism (21 ), via which tubes compressed low/high pressure air can be introduced into the liquid (28) and, via a nozzle (39) of an air knife, into the material (7) to be processed, contained in the transport capsule, by adjusting the position of the shifting means (22) of the tube shifting mechanism (21 ), the fan (27a) and the direction of the compressed air by the controllable logic (19) and by adjusting the strength of the air blast by the fre quency converter (20) and the programmable logic (19).

In an example, the perforations (3) are placed in the section of the transport tube above the liquid level (57) in the process tank (29) and/or washing tank (30); after the processing, the chemical and/or liquid residues from the material (7) to be pro cessed are removed by running via the perforations while the processed material (7) moves above the liquid level along the transport tube (12).

The transport capsule may comprise a hollow cylinder (2) with openings (3), and a lid part (1 ) attached to at least one end of the cylinder (2) and equipped with a slide ring or a slide bearing (1 b). In an example, both ends of the cylinder (2) are provided with a lid part (1 ). In an example, the lid part (1 ) of a perforated transport capsule (10) used in electrochemical processes is provided with a conductive contact sur face and/or a connector (5) with an anode or cathode conductor. This structure enables the use of a transport capsule in applications of electrochemical methods. In another example, a conductive metal anode or cathode coating (4b) is integrated in the inner surface of the cylinder (2) of the transport capsule (10). In an example, a perforated (3) cylindrical (2) transport capsule (10) equipped with an openable lid (1 ) with slide rings (1 b) is or has been filled by means of a filling system (34) with a desired quantity of material (7) to be processed. The filling container (6) of the filling system is filled with material (7) to be processed, which can be guided, under assis tance by a vibrating unit (40), through a filling outlet and/or pipe (8) of the container to a dispensing unit (41 ) where a desired unit dose is prepared for filling the transport capsule (10). A transport capsule (10) placed in the docking station of the turning platform (9) can be positioned by the turning table, turnable by means of the trans mission (16) of the rotating shaft (18) of a servo or stepper motor (17) and the respective gearbox (15), motor control and programmable logic (19), to a suitable angle of rotation at the outlet of the dispensing unit of the feeding device. An auto mated opening and/or closing module (1 1 ) for the lid of the capsule can open the lid (1 ) of the transport capsule (10) for filling with material (7) to be processed. The dispensing unit (41 ) fills the transport capsule with a unit dose, after which the open ing and/or closing module (1 1 ) for the capsule closes the lid (1 ) of the transport capsule (10), and a status signal (35) indicating a 'ready' status is transmitted to the programmable logic (19). Under control by the programmable logic (19) and by means of signal connections (35) to the controllable logic (19) from position sensors (33) at different locations in the transport tube (12), as well as by adjusting the direction and rate of overpressure or underpressure generated by the fan (27a) con nected to the frequency converter (20), and by changing the position of the shifting means (22) of the tube shifting mechanism (21 ), it is possible to move the transport capsule (10) between a process tank (29), a washing tank (30), discharging and/or storage tanks, and the dispensing unit. The speed of the transport capsule (10) can be suitably slowed down by controlling the frequency converter, or by means of a special stopping module (1 1 ), when the transport capsule (10) arrives at the docking stations (71 ) in the turning platform (27) in the process tank or washing tank. The transport capsule is guided to a desired vacant docking station in the turning plat form by moving the turning platform, equipped with motor control, to a suitable position. A programmable logic and, for example, a servo motor, a stepper motor or pneumatic drive are used to move, in the vertical direction, a linear hoisting and/or lowering mechanism (25) and the shaft (23) connected to it as well as the turning platform (27) connected to shaft of the motor, and the transport capsules (10) placed in the docking stations of the turning platform, into the liquid (28) in the process tank (29). By the effect of the liquid in the tank, the precious metal surface can be removed from the material (7) to be processed, placed in the perforated (3) transport capsule (10), into an ionic form. In an example, the desired unit dose for filling the transport capsule (10) is formed on the basis of measuring the weight, volume, and/or number of pieces. In this way, the weight, volume, and/or number of pieces for the unit dose can be obtained.

The method can be boosted by heating up the process liquid, the treatment tank or the treatment zone, by a suitable heating element and a thermostat controlling the same, to a desired temperature, and by maintaining the temperature, for example, in the range of 20 to 100°C, such as 30 to 100°C, 30 to 80°C, or 50 to 100°C. The method can also be carried out, in part or in whole, at room temperature. Some of the treatments can be carried out at temperatures different from other treatments. The method can be boosted, for example, by subjecting the turning platform to a mechanical vibration by a suitable shaking device (40), by bringing a motor-driven turning platform to a constant rotational motion, or by blowing air into the process via an outlet pipe (15) connected to the outlet of a tube shifter connected to the liquid in the process tank (29) or washing tank (30), for example by means of a fan (27a) controlled by a programmable logic and a frequency converter, and by changing the position of the tube shifting means of the tube shifting mechanism (21 ). A vibration damper (38) may be connected to the hoisting shaft (23) to prevent vibration caused by the shaking device (40) from entering the hoisting device and the mechanical supporting structure connected to it. After the processing has been completed, the turning platform (27) is moved above the liquid level (65) by the hoisting mechanism (25), and residues of processing liquid left in the transport capsules (10) and the materials (7) to be processed therein are removed by means of a shaking device (40), by rotating the turning platform quickly by a centrifugal force, and by blowing air at a suitable pressure via the nozzle (39) of an air knife. After this, the transport capsule is transported, according to the principle presented above, to a washing tank, and the above-presented method step is repeated in the washing tank (30). After the washing, the transport capsule (10) is transported to a discharging con tainer (31 ), in which an automated module (1 1 ) for holding and opening the transport capsule takes care of removing the processed materials (7) from the capsule. Finally, the transport capsule is transported in the transport tube (12) back to the filling system unit (34) to wait for re-filling for a new process cycle. The vibrating unit of the shaking device (40) can be, for example, an eccentric shaft motor, a pneu matic shaking device, and/or a magnetic actuator.

In an example, the current supply from the power source to the anode conductor and to the cathode in electrochemical applications is implemented by supplying a positive and a negative terminal voltage from the power source to conductors (44, 45) which run in the hollow tube and via the turning platform, being connected to a contact and/or connector surface (47) which forms an electric coupling to the anode and/or cathode conductors in the connection surface of the lid of the transport cap sule and within the capsule. A hollow conductive cylinder structure (46) which is made of e.g. steel and to which one of the terminal voltages is connected, is placed outside the transport capsule. The polarity of the terminal voltages can be selected as needed for the application, depending on whether coatings are to be removed from or deposited onto metal surfaces.

In an example, the principle of a mechanical tubular roller conveyor is applied for the material to be processed, moving inside the hollow tube. This comprises a transport tube (12) and, inside the same, a cable and/or a chain (5) moved by a conveyor wheel (52, 53, 54), suitably spaced conveyor discs (50) being arranged on the cable and/or chain (58) for conveying the material (7) to be processed between, for example, treatment tanks, such as process tanks (29), washing tanks (30), and discharging and/or storage containers (31 ). In this way, a space for trans porting the material of a unit dose is formed in the space between the hollow transport tube (12) and the conveyor discs mounted on the cable (58), and a perfo ration is implemented at the location of the process tanks (29) and washing tanks (30) in which the transport tube (12) is perforated. A vibrating mechanism (46) is connected to the hollow transport tube and, if necessary, a separate liquid mixing or rotating mechanism may be installed in the perforated section of the transport tube in the liquid, for making the processes more efficient.

In the example shown in Fig. 7b, components of a conveyor chain of a tubular roller conveyor, comprising a rigid cable structure (58) and conveyor discs (50), are engaged to and/or disengaged from each other for the time of processing of the material, by a magnetic or automated mechanical coupling (60), making a straight structure of a transport tube possible for the transport of material (7) to be pro cessed. A single component of the conveyor chain is disengaged by a disengaging mechanism at the perforated transport tube section (61 ) in a process tank (29) or a washing tank (30), whereby a separate hoisting mechanism (25) connected to the perforated transport tube section (61 ) and to a supporting structure (43), as well as slide bearings (62) and steering shafts (63), can be used for moving the material (7) to be processed into or out of a liquid. The process can be made more efficient by providing the perforated transport tube (61 ) with a separate shaking device (40) to produce mechanical vibration, bringing the pieces to be processed in motion in the liquid, and facilitating the penetration of the liquid into the material (7) to be pro- cessed. Furthermore, the process can be boosted by installing a separate mixing or rotating mechanism in the perforated transport tube section (61 ).

In the examples shown in Figs. 8a and 8b, the processing tank and the liquid tank for the material contained in one or more transport capsules are implemented as separate tanks. In this case, the processing tank (29) or the washing tank (30) are used for storing the liquid to be used in the process, and a second, separate pro cessing tank (29) is placed in a space above the liquid level (65). Via an inlet (66) coupled to the a pump (68) in the liquid (28), and a possible filter (67), the liquid is pumped via the outlet pipe (69) of the pump to the separate processing tank (29), where at least one transport capsule (10) is placed in a docking station or docking stations (71 ). The liquid (28) can act on the material (7) to be processed, contained in the transport capsule (10), via perforations (3). The process liquid (28) runs back via an outlet pipe connected to the separate process tank, and the flow rate can be adjusted by adjusting the diameter of the pipe. The process can be made more efficient by bringing the material (7) to be processed in motion by a mechanical shaking device (38) or by a motor-driven mechanism, by bringing at least one dock ing station (71 ), fastened to the turning platform at the end of the shaft (23), to a rotating motion for boosting the mixing. A vibration damping unit (38) is arranged between the shaking device (40) and a supporting structure (43) to prevent stress caused by the mechanical vibration from entering the supporting structures (43), the bearings (62) or the linear hoisting devices (25). By a pump control drive it is possi ble to control the rate of the flow into the process tank (29). The material (7) to be processed, contained in the transport capsule (10), is conveyed to the separate pro cessing tank (29) by the force moving the capsule along the transport tube (12).

In the examples shown in Fig. 9, turning platforms (27) applied in the apparatus are utilized for increasing processing capacity. One or more docking stations (71 ) can be connected to the turning platform (27). The turning platform (27) is implemented in the vertical and/or horizontal direction, to allow the entry of at least one transport capsule (10) in the docking station, in either the vertical or the horizontal direction. In the docking station (71 ), the transport capsule (10) can be placed in a structure comprising a perforated transport tube (61 ), which may be provided with a separate locking structure for holding the capsule. By adjusting the rotation angle of the turn ing platform, the orientation of the turning platform is turned to a desired angle for receiving the transport capsule (10) in the docking station (71 ) or for feeding it back to the transport tube (12). The turning platform (27) can be steered by a motor con trol. In the example shown in Fig. 10, a separate process tank is provided with integrated cathode and anode inputs (44, 45) connected to the terminal voltages of a power source, for running electrochemical processes. In an example, the lid part (1 ) of the transport capsule (10) is provided with a conductive contact surface/connector (5) and a respective anode and/or cathode conductor (4)

In the examples shown in Figs. 1 1 a and 1 1 b, a transport capsule (10) is conveyed horizontally in the transport tube (12) to a process tank (29) and/or a washing tank (30). The transport capsule (10) arriving in the horizontal plane is moved into a per forated transport tube (61 ) which is provided with a linear hoisting mechanism (25) fastened to supporting structures (43) and with slide bearings (62) and slide cam shafts (63). The structure may be provided with a separate controllable turning plat form for several docking stations. Keeping the transport capsule (10) in the perfo rated transport tube (12) during the processing can be implemented by mechanical locking (72). In the example shown in Fig. 1 1 b, a transport capsule (10) is conveyed horizontally in the transport tube between process tanks (29), washing tanks (30) and waste and/or storage containers (31 ). In the example of Fig. 1 1 b, the perforated transport tube is detachable and configured to be forwarded to processing.

In the examples shown in Figs. 12a and 12b, the material (7) to be processed is conveyed as a unit dose without a transport capsule (10) in a hollow transport tube or a perforated transport tube (61 ). The perforated section of the transport tube is detachable and configured to be forwarded to processing.

In the example shown in Fig. 13, a perforated transport tube (61 ) is made airtight for the time of moving a transport capsule or material, particularly when the moving is effected by underpressure or overpressure. Air gaskets (76) can be provided at the ends of the perforated transport tube (61 ), and the perforated transport tube (61 ) can be positioned by a linear hoisting device (25) to the location of the transport tube connected to a process tank so that these are joined, forming an airtight joint. By means of a linear moving device (25) and parts of slide bearings (62) connected to supporting structures (43), and slide cam shafts (63) connected to the bearings, it is possible to guide semi-circular sealing profiles (73) tightly against the gasket structure (76) of the transport tube, whereby the perforations are covered for the time of movement by underpressure or overpressure. In a corresponding way, the perforations (3) of the perforated tube (61 ) can be opened by moving the gasket structures (76) off the perforated transport tube (61 ) by means of the linear moving device (25); and by means of the linear hoisting device (25), the perforated transport tube (61 ) can be lowered into the liquid (28) in a processing tank (29) or a washing tank (30), for processing. In an example, airtight sealing between the perforated transport tube (61 ) and the transport tube (12) is implemented by connecting sleeves connected to the transport tube (12) and equipped with a linear slide. The connecting sleeves are guided to slide along the outer surface of the transport tube, onto the perforated transport tube, to cover the perforations, and to form an airtight joint at the joint between the transport tube (12) and the perforated transport tube (61 ), by means of an overpressure/underpressure for the time when a transport cap sule (10) and/or material (7) to be processed is moved in the tube.

In the example shown in Fig. 14, for recovering metals in ionic form, the inner wall of a separate processing tank (29) is provided with a conductive coating, to which the anode of a power source is connected via a voltage supply (44). Titanium coated anode plates (4) are connected to the conductive surface and are arranged evenly, at a given space, around a cylindrical hollow cathode structure (46). The cathode structure (46) is connected to a motor shaft, and by means of motor control, the cathode structure rotates at a given rotational speed. An anode voltage supply (45) from the power source is connected to the cathode structure.