Green Circuit Board Scrapes Components with Hot Water

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Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Defence Images via Flickr.

Research to make electronics safer for the environment is moving forward at a constant pace. We’ve seen some of the innovations that were already proposed and designed that would revolutionize how we create and manufacture electronic gadgets. Now, here is another front within this field of research that tackles yet another common problem in circuits: the issue of how we can easily recover components for reuse.

Scientists from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the UK have developed a special circuit board that has the ability to fall apart or dissolve partially when immersed in hot water. It is made up of what is called as a set of “unzippable polymeric layers“. The development for the material was part of the ReUSE project, a joint venture between the NPL, In2Tec, and Gwent Electronic Materials.

When exposed to dry heat (such as heat generated while the circuit is operational), nothing will happen to the circuit board. But when exposed to hot water, the layers lose grip of one another. If there are components that are mounted on the circuit board, the layers that are directly adhered to the component will fall apart, letting the component come off very easily. This means that you can simply clean off and “wash” away all of the components immediately, without the need to unsolder them one by one.

Eco Note:
Circuit boards as a whole contribute directly to the yearly stack of e-waste that the world produces. The difficulty in recycling circuits comes from the fact that there are so many different materials, components and elements that are “infused” into it. Separation through mechanical means is practically impossible, and would not be that economical.

To make matters worse, only 2% of the materials and components in circuits can actually be salvaged and reused. The rest are taken straight to landfills. The new green circuit board on the other hand, has been proven through lab tests to be capable of recycling almost 90% of the components used in the circuit. The components are simply scraped off, and are ready to be used again in a new circuit. The potential recycling loop that the circuit board could make will keep most of the components away from becoming trash that could potentially harm the environment.

Worldwide adoption of the new green circuit board would perhaps still require a few more major steps, but the fact that it has already shown direct results means that such reality may not be really far off. Practicality issues might slow down its proliferation of course, but you can just imagine the boost that the electronics recycling industry can get from such revolutionary concept.

Christian Crisostomo
About Christian Crisostomo (260 Posts)

Christian Crisostomo is just your average tech geek that loves to see man's newest and most recent technological exploits. He holds great interest in the potentials of green technology, and is enthusiastic about the continuous development of environment-friendly alternative energy.

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