Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New system recovers and reuses electronic wastes

04.03.2003


Concern is rising among governments worldwide about electronic wastes -- discarded computers, televisions, cell phones, audio equipment and batteries -- leaching lead and other substances that may seep into groundwater supplies.



Just one color computer monitor or television can contain up to eight pounds of lead. Consider that amount in light of the estimated 12 million tons of "e-wastes" that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates may soon be dumped into American landfills.

Worry has reached such a level that some European countries are forcing manufacturers to take back discarded electronics, and in the United States, California and Massachusetts have banned their disposal in municipal solid waste landfills. But some officials are looking beyond these stop-gap measures to find a solution.


A study under way at the Georgia Institute of Technology may offer a model for other states and nations. Researchers are conducting the study in cooperation with the Pollution Prevention Assistance Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which is funding the project with additional support from the National Science Foundation.

Researchers have devised a "reverse production" system that creates infrastructure to recover and reuse every material contained within e-wastes -- metals such as lead, copper, aluminum and gold, and various plastics, glass and wire. Such "closed loop" manufacturing and recovery offers a win-win situation for everyone, researchers said. Less of the Earth will be mined for raw materials, and groundwater will be protected.

But this simple concept requires a lot of brand new thinking, said Jane Ammons, a professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering and a governor-appointed member of the Georgia Computer Equipment Disposal and Recycling Council. She and colleague Matthew Realff, an associate professor in the School of Chemical Engineering, are devising methods to plan reverse production systems that will collect e-trash, tear apart devices ("de-manufacture it") and use the components and materials again -- all while making the process economically viable.

Though this system is being designed for Georgia, its application elsewhere has sparked interest nationally and internationally, the researchers reported. Officials in Taiwan and Belgium have consulted with the researchers, as have several multi-national electronics and logistics firms. Also, the researchers’ work on carpet recycling was used in testimony to Congress and helped in developing an industry coalition that has the goal of diverting 25 percent of carpet from landfills by 2012.

The project is building on other research that Ammons and Realff are conducting. Their fundamental work in reverse production systems has been funded by the National Science Foundation. Ammons’ related research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as one of four ADVANCE chaired professors at Georgia Tech. ADVANCE is a program to improve the career success of women faculty in science and engineering. Also, Ammons and Realff are applying their findings from other studies to the e-waste project. For example, they have modeled the regional and national infrastructure necessary for cost-effective and environmentally beneficial collection and recycling of carpet to extract nylon fiber, caprolactam monomer and other products.

"It’s a matter of seeing a waste as a resource," Ammons said.

Key to their approach is the ongoing development of a mathematical model to predict the economic success of recovery efforts. Modeling is necessary given the uncertainty inherent in a host of variables -- quantities, locations, types and conditions of old parts, and numerous aspects of transportation (distance, costs of fuel, labor, insurance, etc.). Ammons and Realff have involved experts, many of them from Georgia recycling and salvaging businesses, to probe the complicated interplay between manufacturing, de-manufacturing and logistics. "Strong leverage comes from our new mathematical models," Ammons said. "They allow us to ask really good questions while designing the infrastructure for these systems."

Realff’s expertise is the design and operation of processes that recover the maximum amount possible of useable product from e-waste. He has devised ways to separate metals, as well as different qualities of plastic from crushed, ground-up components. Realff and his students measure density and surface properties in novel ways. For example, they measure how far pieces fly off a conveyer belt and how well air bubbles stick to them. This information enables more accurate representations of recycling tasks to be incorporated into the strategic models and the synthesis of lower-cost alternatives, Realff explained.

"For chemical engineers, this is a challenging problem that has not been widely studied," he said. "It’s exciting. We are creating a new architecture for separation systems." From this work, new industries and an infrastructure can be created to recover value not only from e-waste, but also from automobiles and other durable goods, Realff added.

Now into the second and final year of the Georgia project, Ammons, Realff and their students are tweaking and testing their mathematical model (which for some problems has required computers to determine more than 300,000 variables) by testing hundreds of "what-if" scenarios. The researchers are continuing their collaboration under a new grant from the National Science Foundation; it will help broaden their model to other reverse production system problems.

Meanwhile, the DNR is eagerly awaiting the final results of the study.

"This work is tremendously important. E-waste poses potential serious environmental problems if it continues to go into landfills," said Chuck Boelkins, a DNR resource recovery specialist. The Georgia recovery system "may become a national model. It could be key to the future of responsible environmental management."


For technical information, contact:

1. Jane Ammons, 404-894-2364 or jane.ammons@isye.gatech.edu
2. Matthew Realff, 404-894-1834 or matthew.realff@che.gatech.edu)


Jane Sanders | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://gtresearchnews.gatech.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>