You’re Not Tossing Used Sputtering Targets from Plating Processes, Are You?

We’ve written about sputtering targets in the past (see related posts below), but a few recent calls made us think that this would be a good time to remind our readers that most used sputtering targets still contain precious metals that are worth extracting.

Scrap sputtering targets, like the one shown above, can contain gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium, and can be refined and recycled by Specialty Metals.

Scrap sputtering targets, like the one shown above, can contain gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium, and can be refined and recycled by Specialty Metals.

One caller wanted to know whether used sputtering targets are worth recycling at all. “After all, they’re used, right?” he asked us. Another caller had bought a half-full shoebox of old sputtering targets at an auction where a company’s assets were being liquidated. “Is there any point in sending them to you for testing?” he wanted to know.

We told both those callers that, yes, their sputtering targets probably contained precious metals that were well worth recycling. Let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons why.

“Used” Doesn’t Mean Worthless

Sputtering targets are designed to deposit thin layers of specific metal onto metals, plastics, and even glass and ceramics. Let’s say, for example, that a sputtering target has been designed to apply thin layers of silver onto plastic solar panels. The upper surface of the sputtering target therefore is made of silver. After a period of use, that silver has been depleted. The silver sputtering target has then outlived its life on the production line and is said to be “used.”

Yes, that target is no longer useful in production. But that doesn’t mean that its metallic content is worthless. Even though the metal it was designed to supply might be gone, chances are good that the target is still worth recycling, for several reasons:

  • Trace elements of the plated metal can still be present – in some cases, well worth extracting. 
  • Other precious metals can be present. For example, silver is often present in solders that are used to attach the upper layers of gold sputtering targets to their bases, or substrates. If you send a quantity of used sputtering targets to us, we can extract that silver for you.

Be on the Lookout for Larger Quantities of Used Sputtering Targets

If you only own one or two used sputtering targets, they’re not going to be worth much. But the good news is that used sputtering targets often turn up in larger quantities than that. If you work for a manufacturer that does a lot of platinum electroplating, for example, you could easily be amassing dozens of used platinum sputtering targets a month and maybe more.

And if you, like the called we quoted at the start of today’s post, buy a box of used targets from a defunct manufacturing company, you should give us a call. You don’t want to throw precious metals away, do you? Of course you don’t.

Call our refining experts at 800-426-2344 to learn more. And when you do, be sure to mention our blog and ask about free or discounted rates for shipping your sputtering targets to our labs for analysis.

Related Posts:

Plating Primer: How Do Sputtering Targets Work?  
Don’t Throw Dollars Away! How to Mine the Hidden Value in Used Sputtering Targets  
7 Strategies to Cut the Costs of Sputtering Targets and Precious Metal-bearing Manufacturing Supplies  
Why Precious Metals Can Be Recovered from Gold Sputtering Targets