Recycling electronics is a challenge, particularly as they become smaller and more tightly sealed. But the National Physical Laboratory in the UK looks to change that with a newly invented circuit board that dissolves when submerged in water. This new development eliminates the challenge of e-waste disassembly, which can often result in damage to the re-usable parts. So how does it work? Once submerged, the board completely dissolves, leaving the components like resistors and capacitors to be scooped up and re-used.
Currently, when a circuit board is removed and disassembled, only about two-percent of the components can be salvaged. But the printed circuit board allows about 90-percent of the components to be recovered intact. Not only can this technology be used on flat circuit boards, but it can also be used on 3D or flexible circuit board designs.
The polymeric layers of the board are able to withstand the moisture in the air and the thermal heat generated in daily use, but once the electronic has reached the end of its life, the circuit board can be submerged in hot water to force the polymers to release. The circuit board was funded as part of the UK’s ReUSE (Reusable, Unzippable, Sustainable Electronics) project.