News

Articles:

NTU Singapore partners the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission to develop innovative e-waste recycling technologies

NTU Singapore partners the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission to develop innovative e-waste recycling technologies

The joint lab has four research thrusts
that include recycling and recovering materials from e-waste such as discarded
lithium-ion batteries and printed circuit boards. It will also look at
developing advance separation and extraction processes of e-waste that are less
energy-intensive and less toxic than current methods.

With a strong focus on promoting
sustainable industry processes, the joint
lab’s aims are in line with NTU’s focus in sustainability research to develop
industry-driven solutions for a greener future.

NTU President Professor Subra Suresh said
that e-waste is becoming the world’s fastest-growing trash stream as consumer
electronics such as mobile phones are constantly being replaced. The NTU-CEA
Joint Lab aims to devise more efficient
processes for recycling e-waste so that materials, like the rare earth metals
from used electronics, can be safely extracted and reused. He added that the
university strives to ensure that research ideas nurtured at the lab are
translated into practical, scalable and industry-driven solutions that will
benefit society.

The CEA Chairman, Dr François Jacq, stated that more than fifteen of the CEA’s top
researchers will make extended stays in Singapore to strengthen this
collaboration and leveraging the CEA’s world-renowned expertise and
technologies in material recycling and waste management; solutions to e-waste
management challenges will be addressed with the perspective of translating
R&D and innovation into high value-added industrial products and processes.
He added that NTU and CEA will also collaborate with the National Environment
Agency (NEA)
of Singapore to set up the Singapore CEA Alliance for Research in Circular
Economy (SCARCE), with the three organisations
committing S$20 million to it.

SCARCE will look into developing innovative
recycling technologies that can sort, dismantle, and recover materials that can
be re-used in an energy-efficient and environmentally benign way.

SCARCE is the first project that has
received funding from NEA’s Closing The Waste Loop research funding initiative.
The S$45 million Closing The Waste Loop research funding initiative by NEA
encourages collaborations among institutes of higher learning, research
institutes, and private sector partners,
to develop technologies and solutions to tackle challenges posed by increasing
waste generation, scarcity of resources and land constraints for waste
management.

Developing
Sustainable Solutions

The NTU–CEA Joint Lab will have four
research thrusts that include recycling and recovering materials from:

    i.   Lithium-ion
batteries;

   
ii.   Silicon-based solar panels;

  
iii.   Printed circuit boards (PCBs) from discarded consumer electronics;
and

  
iv.   Toxic plastics in e-waste such as brominated plastics which has
flame retardants to meet fire safety standards.

NTU and the CEA researchers will also
address issues faced when using current extraction methods of precious metals
from lithium-ion batteries, solar panels, and
PCBs, which consume large amounts of energy and use strong acids.

To overcome such challenges, the joint lab
will explore advanced processes such as using environment-friendly solvents
(e.g. organic liquid salts) to dissolve and extract selective metals.

The partnership will also explore using
activation means and chemical reactions to dissolve materials and also study
the use of bacteria and fungi species to extract metals and toxic elements from
recyclable materials.

Besides metals, recycling technologies
developed may also be applied to plastics, wood, and building materials.

With the CEA's world-renowned expertise in
metal extraction and materials recycling with extensive industrial deployment,
and NTU's excellence in R&D translation and innovation in environmental
sustainability, this collaboration stands to boost local R&D capabilities
in e-waste management and recycling.