Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Recycling to ensure sufficient raw materials for the future

Date:
May 7, 2014
Source:
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Summary:
About 70 billion tons of raw materials are extracted world wide annually. That is twice as much as at the end of the 1970s. This trend is continuing – even with finite resources. One way to have enough materials available for manufacturing new goods in future is to recycle continually.

Experts from the ISC are working on a process to extract valuable colorless glass from old plate glass.
Credit: Image courtesy of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

About 70 billion tons of raw materials are extracted world wide annually. That is twice as much as at the end of the 1970s. This trend is continuing -- even with finite resources. One way to have enough materials available for manufacturing new goods in future is to recycle continually. Fraunhofer researchers are working on the advanced "Molecular Sorting" project for the next-generation circular economy. They will be presenting their results at the IFAT Trade Fair in Munich, Germany, 5-9 May 2014.

Related Articles


Germans consume about 200 kilograms of raw materials per person each day according to the Federal Ministry of the Environment (Umweltbundesamt). Which means Germans are in first place. This not only damages the environment -- it is also dangerous for Germany's international competiveness. As a country poor in raw materials, Germany must commit to comprehensive resource conservation. New and efficient recycling methods are one option by which to become more independent of imported raw materials that are expensive and in short supply. Fraunhofer experts have established important principles for consistent recycling and circular manufacturing in the advanced Molecular Sorting for Resource Efficiency project. They will be presenting new methods at IFAT that facilitate the recycling of precious metals, rare earths, glass, wood, concrete, and also phosphorus.

Recycling 2.0 -- perfect separation

"The separation processes take place initially at the smallest level required, i.e. we go down to the molecular or even atomic levels," explains the project's coordinator, Professor Jörg Woidasky from the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal near Karlsruhe, Germany. One example is the bioleaching process being developed and readied for commercial use at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart, Germany. Even small quantities of precious metals or rare earths can be recovered with the technique. The researchers utilize microorganisms to convert insoluble metallic compounds in ores, in combustion slag, or in scrap wood saturated with metallic salts into water-soluble salts. The dissolved metals can subsequently be chemically bound using specialized polymers and thereby selectively removed from the solution. The metals are separated in a third step.

Experts from the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Würzburg, Germany, are working on a process to extract valuable colorless glass from old plate glass.

Water-white glass ensures maxmal optical transparency and is therefore employed in photovoltaics, fiber-optic cables, and displays. If impurities -- such as iron -- are in the glass, its transparency falls. "The growth in the photovoltaics sector is so huge at the moment that neither the sources of iron-free natural raw materials nor the quantities of recycled materials from "used" photovoltaic modules, for example, are sufficient to satisfy the demand for highly transparent plate glass in the coming decades," says Dr. Jürgen Meinhardt from ISC. Conventional plate glass might be an alternative source of raw materials. However, the iron content of this glass is too high. The researchers are developing a process by which iron atoms can be pulled directly out of the liquid glass if heated to about 1500 degrees Celsius.

Reusing scrap wood intelligently

Recycling wood in Germany is still at an infant stage. Up to now, only about 33 percent of the roughly eight million tons of waste wood annually is re-used. One reason for the low recycling rate are the German regulations regarding scrap wood. They prescribe that material coated with organic compounds containing halogens or wood treated with wood preservatives may not be re-used except under very restricted circumstances. New techniques of separation at the molecular level are expected to help matters without jeopardizing the precautions contained in the scrap wood regulations.

In order to be able to recycle more scrap wood, the harmful substances present must be identified. To do this, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research / Wilhlem Klauditz Institute in Braunschweig, Germany, employed various processes such as near-infrared spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence analysis and ion mobility spectrometry. Once the harmful substance has been identified, it can also be removed. "Super-critical fluids can be used to clean wood that has been treated with organic wood preservatives. To separate out or concentrate heavy metals, we plan to apply wet chemical processes as well as combustion techniques and pyrolyzation," says Peter Meinlschmidt, a physicist at WKI.

Recycling concrete

Several million tons of building rubble accumulate every year. However, no process for recycling concrete exists yet. Researchers in the Concrete Technology group at the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP in Holzkirchen, Germany, want to change that. They are working on "electrodynamic fragmentation," a technique by which ultra-short lightning bolts course through the concrete. They have been successful in reducing the concrete into its individual components -- gravel and cement. An important first step toward recycling old concrete.

Recovering germanium and phosphorus

But valuable materials are not only extracted from solid waste. Flue gases from garbage incinerators likewise contain raw materials. To extract these, researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden, Germany, are developing specialized ceramic filters with which specific component substances in flue gases at temperatures in excess of 850 °C are first selectively separated out and then subsequently recovered -- Germanium, zinc, and even phosphorus, for example.

But do these methods make any sense in a rapidly evolving market environment? The Molecular Sorting project partners have examined this in a study. Their conclusions indicate they do. Recycling at the atomic level will very probably be economically feasible in the future. Not just if it is politically supported, but also as an economically independent business model.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. "Recycling to ensure sufficient raw materials for the future." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507095851.htm>.
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. (2014, May 7). Recycling to ensure sufficient raw materials for the future. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507095851.htm
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. "Recycling to ensure sufficient raw materials for the future." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507095851.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) — Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) — A scuba diving Santa Claus explored the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Dive shop owner Spencer Slate makes the dive each year to help raise money for charity. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — US President Barack Obama says that construction of the Keystone pipeline would have 'very little impact' on US gas prices and believes there are 'more direct ways' to create construction jobs. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) — Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins