Plants to recycle electronic waste

Vegetables rate to recycle electronic waste

Certain organic materials could help to extract rare metal components, essential for our electronic devices.

What if certain organic materials could help extract rare metal components, essential for our electronic devices? This is the idea of ​​a team of American researchers that could bear fruit if it were deployed on a large scale. Here is what it consists of.

Neodymium: this barbaric-sounding name may not mean anything to you. However, it is found in many everyday electronic devices: our computers, our television screens… and even in the engines of hybrid cars! 

Problem: like most of the metals that make up our devices, they are extracted from rare and non-renewable resources. Not to mention that the devices in question generally have a limited lifespan. But a method developed by a team of American scientists from Penn State University could kill two birds with one stone. The latter designed an aqueous solution to which they added residual organic matter.

Specifically, the researchers ground up tomato skin and corn on the cob, then mixed it with wood pulp and cotton paper into small pieces before soaking them in water. The introduction of microproduct and nanoparticles then caused a chemical reaction, activating the separation process necessary to extract neodymium samples.

If this method is deployed on a large scale, the researchers believe that it could both reduce the mass of electronic waste while limiting the mining necessary to obtain these components that are used in our everyday devices.

“In the near future, we want to test our process on realistic industrial samples,” says Amir Sheikhi, assistant professor of chemical engineering who led the work. His team also hopes to extend this technique to other precious metals such as gold and silver.

According to a survey commissioned by the European Greens/EFA parliamentary group and published in December 2021, 40% of Europe’s digital environmental footprint is due to digital depletion. nt of metal resources and the use of fossil resources necessary to manufacture electronic devices.

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