Our love for gadgets means one thing in life: gadget waste will continue to grow. As new generations of laptops, tablets, phones, PCs and the like appear on the scene one has to wonder where the old ones go. Sure, some can be recycled, but there is certainly cost involved. Realistically much of what goes into a circuit board cannot be reused unless completely taken apart – which is challenging. If it can’t be recycled it gets thrown into the general trash, only to go into and pollute the earth. I would imagine that growth of industries finding enviro-conscious solutions to dispose of e-waste will start to keep pace with the electronics industry itself.
Researchers at UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL), in conjunction with research partners, have come up with a solution that may help with this waste issue down the road. The research was conducted as part of the ReUSE (Reuseable, Unzippable, Sustainable Electronics) project, a UK government backed initiative to increase the recyclability of electronic assemblies. Currently in the UK only about 2% of assemblies can be reused. The group designed and tested a number of different layers of polymers which were able to be separated into their individual parts at end of life when submerged in hot water. Result? The components on the circuit boards were easily removable after the hot water soak and 90% of them were reusable. Check the video above to see how simple NPL made it look. And who knows, maybe someday we will be able to turn old electronics in with confidence, knowing the insides can be used again – thanks to NPL and hot water.