Recovery and Utilization of Materials from electronic waste via Cryomilling to Develop Advanced Green Technologies

Electronic waste (e-waste) causes enormous societal and environmental impact when they enter the trash stream. It has emerged as the fastest-growing waste source in recent decades throughout the universe. The global accumulation of e-waste is expected to reach 74 Mt by 2030, nearly doubling in tonnage over this decade (2020-2030). The act of indiscriminate e-waste dumping, along with inefficient and unorthodox e-waste handling, is indisputably detrimental to economic and public health. Since e-waste has dramatically increased the impact on the environment, developing sustainable solutions for recovery and recycling is of prime importance. In this direction, the present research aims to establish an easily scalable and novel green technique to rejuvenate and effectively use metallic, ceramic and polymeric components of the e-waste by use of cryo-grinding in an ecologically responsible and energy-efficient manner. The low-temperature grinding method that breaks down PCBs all the way into nanoscaled particles, further enabling enhanced physical separation of the different base constituent materials that are the polymer, oxide, and metal. The recovered materials are easy to be beneficiated as the nanoscale particles produced from grinding are mostly single phase particles, compared to the larger particles obtained by other methods that are  multiphase mixtures of various constituents. The metallic content is utilized to electrochemically selectively reduce CO2 into distinct gaseous products, resulting in the generation of CH4, and H2 as main gaseous products at neutral pH. On the other hand, the extracted polymeric component is utilized to synthesize graphene/CNT using pulsed laser ablation (PLA) in a liquid media, showing promise in synthesizing high-quality graphene, which may be enhanced further by tweaking the PLA process parameters. The synthesized graphene was utilized to fabricate highly conductive electrical connections, revealing the excellent functional capacity of crystalline graphene. Polymeric content along with ceramic are being utilized for making electrical switch boards. In a nutshell, this green technique provided means of extracting main components from e-waste, via low temperature grinding, which can then be utilized to make green energy, precious materials like graphene/CNT, and other engineering applications in an ecologically responsible manner, making the process sustainable and hence, solving a global problem.

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