Sustainable recycling of smartphones – com! professional

They lie in drawers and cupboards or gather dust on shelves: old cell phones. They contain valuable raw materials such as plastics and precious metals that can be used for other purposes.

As part of the Germany-wide chemPLANT student competition for prospective process engineers, a team from the Technical University of Kaiserslautern (TUK) has developed its own concept for recycling the devices. With their work they convinced both the jury and the audience and took first place, endowed with 2,000 euros.

The five team members Ferdinand Breit, Christian Weibel, Simon Eberweiser, Alexander Reihle and Johannes Stüber study energy and process engineering at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern. Together they entered the Germany-wide chemPLANT competition this spring. This year, the focus was on the sustainable recycling of smartphones. It was about efficiently recovering raw materials such as valuable metals and plastics. When evaluating the concept, sustainability, creativity and technical correctness primarily played a role.

The process of the up-and-coming engineers in Kaiserslautern is structured as follows: First, the smartphones are dismantled and sorted into their individual parts either by machine or by hand in a conveyor workshop. In what is known as “bioleaching”, microorganisms then release the precious metals gold, silver and copper in a bioreactor in the central process step. The pure precious metals can then be obtained electrolytically from the so-called fermenter broth. The sludge left behind in the bioreactor is also treated in several process steps so that aluminum, tungsten and tantalum are obtained.

Source: com! professional by

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