With megatons of obsolete personal computers, old cell phones and other waste electrical and electronic equipment piling up every year, scientists in China report development of a much-needed new recycling and recovery technology for one of the most troublesome components of e-waste — printed circuit boards (PCBs).
In a report scheduled for the Feb. 15 edition of ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal, Zhenming Xu and colleagues point out that PCBs are an ideal target for recycling and reuse.
PCBs are self-contained modules of interconnected electronic components formed by a thin layer of conducting material deposited, or "printed," on the surface of an insulating board. They contain materials potentially toxic if released to the environment. However, PCBs also are a rich potential source of valuable metals and other materials that could be recovered and reused.
The researchers describe tests of their process on almost a half-ton of scrap PCBs, which showed that it is efficient and environmentally friendly. The technology involves special crushing of scrap PCBs, followed by separation of the metallic and non-metallic materials with an electric field. The technique has advantages over other methods proposed for recycling PCBs, the researchers indicate.
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