Engineers at Duke University have developed the world’s first fully recyclable printed electronics. Their recycling process recovers nearly 100% of the materials used—and preserves most of their performance capabilities for reuse. By demonstrating a crucial and relatively complex computer component—the transistor—created with three carbon-based inks, the researchers hope to inspire a new generation of recyclable electronics.
“Silicon-based computer components are probably never going away, and we don’t expect easily recyclable electronics like ours to replace the technology and devices that are already widely used,” said Aaron Franklin, the Addy Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke. “But we hope that by creating new, fully recyclable, easily printed electronics and showing what they can do, that they might become widely used in future applications.”
Even though the ever-growing pile of discarded electronics is now on the decline, less than a quarter of it each year is recycled, according to a United Nations estimate. Part of the problem is that electronic devices are difficult to recycle. Large plants employ hundreds of workers who hack at bulky devices. But while scraps of copper, aluminum and steel can be recycled, the silicon chips at the heart of the devices cannot. . . . . full story