INL seeks to find more efficient way to recycle electronic waste

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) – For more than half a decade, the team at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has been researching more efficient methods for recycling our old electronics. After nearly seven years of research and development, the system they have come up with is called E-RECOV.

Currently, this new system is in the testing phase with two companies who have been able to partner together and fabricate a working model of the system. The goal of the E-RECOV is to dissolve, through a chemical reaction, the base components that make up our old cell phones, TVs, laptops, gaming consoles or other old electronics and make it easier to retrieve the less present gold and palladium and reuse them in other projects.

The testing of this new system is being conducted by Quantum Ventura based in San Jose. They’re testing is being done on a lab based in Cason City, Nevada. After a test was completed in January 2022, it was discovered a few more things needed to be ironed out for the system to work at its best. On the experience lead researcher for the project Tedd E. Lister says, “whenever you put any kind of system together, there’s always lots of opportunities for things to not work. And they usually they usually don’t work right off the bat.”

“Think of the amount of quality control that goes into like making a car, for example. They have to do an awful lot of work so that those things roll off the assembly line right every time and and we don’t get to see that whenever we see our shiny car. But I mean, there’s a lot that goes into those to make sure all those operations are going correctly,” Lister said. “You know, whenever we whenever we were, anticipating that there would be challenges and there were some challenges it without getting in too much of the technical detail, some of the chemistry, that wasn’t right at the at the beginning of the process that was mixed up.”

He also added there were some other issues that through further testing and development they will have those issues solved.

Lead Engineer on the project Luis Diaz Aldana says as more people were looking for ways to dispose of their old tech it created a bit of a challenge.
“The people who stopped saving the old phones on the drawers and actually send it back for recycling because it’s it’s it’s or just dispose of it on the landfill,” Aldana said. “That’s another challenge that I mean, it’s probably out of date what the technology is looking for. But it’s very important step for the technology to succeed because if there is not enough fit stock, basically a technology one won’t prosper either.”

The hope of the team behind the E-Recov system is to keep a lot of the electronics based waste collected in the United States within the country instead if sending it overseas to be processed there. They hope to have fully commercialized this system having it in recycling plants soon. More on the E-RECOV system can be found here.

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