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Recycling project takes electronic waste apart with ultra-precision

Within the framework of the IRVE project, a consortium of partners from science and industry is investigating how recyclable materials can be recovered more efficiently. The key to this could be a targeted, automatable dismantling process.

04 Oct. 2019
Recycling project takes electronic waste apart with ultra-precision (Photo: Fraunhofer IWKS)

In recycling processes to date, many valuable materials and a large proportion of the low-concentration metals contained in e-waste are lost. To improve the recycling rate, Aschaffenburg University of Applied Sciences and the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Materials Recycling and Resource Strategies IWKS have joined forces with industrial partners Sesotec and Mairec in the ‘IRVE – Innovative Recycling Processes for Electrical Waste’ project to investigate two new processes for the recovery of components containing valuable materials from electronic waste. The focus of the investigation is on the effectiveness of the concentration of the valuable materials, the economic efficiency, and the suitability of the processes for certain material flows.

In the first process, the electronic waste is detected with the aid of sensors, and search algorithms are used to identify components containing valuable materials so that precisely these components are then dismantled (unlike in conventional shredding and melting processes).

In the second process, the e-waste is broken down by means of electrohydraulic fragmentation: Shock waves generated by pulsed spark discharges are transmitted to the material via a liquid carrier medium. These short but violent mechanical shocks target weak points in the material. The components are then separated into individual material fractions.