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Cryo-Recycling

March 30, 2017

Icy temperatures may be the key to recycling unwanted technology.

Transcript

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Circuit boards from electronics, like computer mice, can be crushed into nanodust by a cryo-mill, according to researchers at Rice University and the Indian Institute of Science. The dust can then be easily separated into its component elements for recycling. (Chandra Sekhar Tiwary/Rice University)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Ice cold recycling. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Landfills are packed with discarded computers, cellphones and other electronics, many containing toxic metals that can pollute the environment. Most attempts to recycle them involve melting or dissolving them with heat or chemicals. But in the journal Materials Today, Rice University material scientist Chandra Sekhar Tiwary and his colleagues at the Indian Institute of Science propose a new idea: freezing the materials using liquid nitrogen, and crushing them into a fine powder.

CHANDRA SEKHAR TIWARY (Rice University):

If you cool down these materials, every class of material behaves very differently, in terms of their mechanical properties, thermal properties; as a result, they can be separated easily.

HIRSHON:

He says the gold, silver, platinum, and other metals are recovered and the plastic dust is a raw material for new products. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon