The necessity to properly recycle electronics is not new, but due to the industry’s rapid growth, it has become more of a worry.
E-RECOV, a technology created by Idaho National Laboratory, is aiming to address this issue. The Critical Materials Institute of the Department of Energy provided funds for its development. E-RECOV reduces the energy-intensive and expensive smelting procedure by using an electrochemical technique to remove metals from electronic equipment.
Many teams played a part in the development of this technology. A company called Quantum Ventura was in charge of its commercialisation and Faraday Technologies provided technical support. “Faraday built an actual test and demonstration unit for E-RECOV,” said Tedd Lister, the project’s principal researcher at INL. “In January 2022, our research team had the opportunity to observe and validate this unit.”
The system will next be prepared for scale-up, setup and operation. This scaling-up procedure will aid in the system’s commercialization. A commercial system will need to be able to process at least 1,000 kilogrammes of metal per day, whereas the lab-level system processes seven kilogrammes per day.
This scale-up entails increasing the system’s size to nearly four times its existing size, then replicating it. Several E-RECOV systems will be running at the same time in the conventional industrial-scale model. The technology is likely to be scaled up to around three or four times its current size to be suitable for an industrial-scale plant, based on its design.
E-RECOV has a lot of potential for making electronics recycling more viable and long-term. The research team recognises, however, that the industry has a long way to go.
“We need to make electronics recycling more available in addition to making it more sustainable,” Lister said. “A lot of people don’t even realize they can recycle their electronic devices, and laws around improper disposal of these devices are left up to the states. To make sure we can successfully execute the potential of E-RECOV, we also need to increase awareness around electronics recycling.”