New circuit boards can be repeatedly recycled

New circuit boards can be repeatedly recycled

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By Wisse Hettinga

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington developed a new PCB that performs on par with traditional materials and can be recycled repeatedly with negligible material loss

Researchers used a solvent that transforms a type of vitrimer — a cutting-edge class of polymer — into a jelly-like substance without damage, allowing solid components to be plucked out for reuse or recycling. In the picture, from left to right is a vitrimer-based circuit board, a sheet of glass fibers, vitrimer that’s been swollen and removed from a board, and electrical components such as a computer chip.

“PCBs make up a pretty large fraction of the mass and volume of electronic waste,” said co-senior author Vikram Iyer, a UW assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “They’re constructed to be fireproof and chemical-proof, which is great in terms of making them very robust. But that also makes them basically impossible to recycle. Here, we created a new material formulation that has the electrical properties comparable to conventional PCBs as well as a process to recycle them repeatedly.”

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