Composite image for the Loewy Institute Mountaintop Experience 2023 Week 2 post preview.

Lehigh Loewy Institute Mountaintop Experience Week 2: Research and Outreach

     This week we examined different practices throughout our research dealing with the disassembly and separation process for PCBs. Together we were able to lay more foundation for the general knowledge of E-waste recycling. From this research, we were able to identify limitations in possible experimental methods in order for easier design of experiments in the future. 

     While looking into PCB recycling, we noted some difficulties that come with these processes. A major issue that is often seen when recycling these materials includes removing the organic compounds in the plate. These organic compounds are important to keep in mind as they can affect the recycling process. We began researching articles for possible solutions to effectively remove organic materials in a sustainable manner. For example, we looked into the supercritical fluid dissolutions of organic compounds in PCBs. This is one of many methods that are available for the removal of organic materials.

     We continued to contact local E-Waste companies to establish visit times. A couple of companies we contacted include; Johnson Matthey, Clean Earth, GER Solutions, Advanced technology recycling, and Umicore. We have also contacted individuals who worked on recovering metals from E-Waste in a past project. We hope to gain more information about E-waste recycling and specifically learn more about the processes that come with recycling PCBs.

Composite image of the companies found and contacted.
Slides of some companies we’ve contacted over the past weeks, as well as some information on them.

     Lastly, we were able to obtain a working space in Whitaker Labs. This space allows for easier communication with our research group and our professor.

Photo of the Mountain Experience Fellows & Associate working table.
A picture of the table at the group’s workplace at Whitaker Labs.
Block diagram for PCB recycling.
Simplified diagram of the current grinding process. Due to the ductility of printed circuit boards, particles too large for the next steps are put through the grinder again, cycling until all pieces are ground. The cycling of waste pieces in the grinder is inefficient and energy-consuming.