Researchers Develop Recyclable PCB Material That Dramatically Reduces E-Waste

recyclable pcb hero
Researchers at the University of Washington have made a big breakthrough, developing a PCB that is able to be recycled several times over while losing very little material in the process. This development can be a game changer in a world where supply chains are under stress and where the current technology ends up in e-waste landfills causing environmental destruction.

It's possible to reuse this new type of PCB because it makes use of vitrimers, which is why the researchers are calling it vPCB. The University of Washington says that a jelly is used to change the vitrimer “to a jelly-like substance without damaging it, allowing the solid components to be plucked out for reuse or recycling.” This can be done repeatedly to make more high-quality PCBs.

recyclable pcb body

This is big difference from the PCB used in electronics today. Vikram Iyer, assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, says that current PCB are “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.”

The researchers were also able to create the vPCB in a process that is very similar to that of conventional PCB. This means that there aren’t many changes that will be needed for manufacturing lines to produce this new PCB. This is important because had the process been radically different, it might’ve lead to manufacturers not wanting to adopt vPCB because of the possible costs associated with making big changes.

The researchers believe that “recycled vPCBs could entail a 48% reduction in global warming potential and an 81% reduction in carcinogenic emissions compared to traditional PCBs.” These are some solid reductions, and hopefully the electronics industry sees the value in making the switch to vPCBs.
Tags:  pcb, recycle, ewaste