Smart Sorting of Valuable Waste PCBs for Recycling (NWA E-Waste)

Bison code: L.28191

Context/current situation:

A crucial aspect in the recycling of WEEEs (Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment) is the pre-processing step. Pre-processing entails the disassembling of WEEE as well as the sorting, identification and isolation of components for either reuse or material recovery (i.e. recycling). A variety of Critical Raw Materials, so called CRMs (Au, Ag, Cu, Sn, Ta, W etc.), can be extracted from WEEEs, thereby closing the materials loops and thus being a key step towards a circular world. Currently, extraction is only economically viable for a small range of CRMs (Au, Ag, Cu, Pt), but as extraction processes evolve towards other CRMs, there appears a need to adjust pre-processing for these other CRMs as well.

In this project, we will study the fusion of data obtained from various viewing/inspection techniques for the purpose of determining whether a certain waste PCB is valuable and by how much. This information will be used to sort these waste PCBs in bins for material recovery at the refinery. The required (minimal) accuracy of the sorting system, as well as the optimal binning will be determined by close interaction with the business-side of PCB recycling.

Problem Statement:

Automate the sorting of waste PCBs according to their value in bins to have an optimal refinery output, as well as the least environmental impact.

Project or Research Goal:

  • Find correlations between the characteristics of a waste PCB (and/or the individual component present on the PCB) obtained by various viewing methods (X-Ray, Spectroscopic, Colorimetric, 3D) and the value (material content) of the observed components.
  • Define optimal sorting and refinement scenarios from a commercial as well as life-cycle perspective

Project Results:

We expect research or design reports, data or – if so agreed at the start – a physical deliverable like a measurement setup or instrument.

Cluster: Circularity: Waste as Resource 2

This project contributes to the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):