Bringing e-waste back to tech

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Momentum Technology have tested an industrial-grade process to recycle valuable materials from the millions of tons of e-waste generated in the United States each year.

Rare earth elements, or REEs, are in high demand but in limited supply for advanced clean energy and defense technologies. Domestic routes are needed to protect supply chains.

Researchers have previously demonstrated a method for recycling waste permanent magnets in consumer electronics using membrane solvents. Now the technology has completed a critical step towards deployment. As described in Advanced Engineering Materials, the system has been optimized to achieve high purity labels.

“The system is modular and scalable with a small footprint and minimal waste,” said ORNL’s Ramesh Bav.

“We are working with partners to commercialize applications and explore applications for the use of RE in emerging technology areas such as wind power and electric vehicles,” said Syed Islam of ORNL.

Reference: Islam SZ, Wagh P, Jenkins JE, Zarzana C, Foster M, Bhave R. Process-scale energy-efficient membrane desorption process for rare earth recycling from electronic waste. Adv Eng Mat. 2200390. doi:10.1002/adem.202200390

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