Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU) and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) launched a joint research center in March 2019 to develop innovative, energy-efficient solutions for the recycling and recovery of resources from electrical and electronic waste (e-waste). The agreement to set up the research center was formalized last year to signify Singapore’s strong ties with France and the 2018 France-Singapore Year of Innovation. The National Environment Agency (NEA) of Singapore is supporting this initiative under the agency’s Closing the Waste Loop (CTWL) Research and Development (R&D) Initiative. Together the three organizations, NTU, CEA and NEA are contributing SGD 20 million (USD 15 million).
The new center, named the NTU Singapore-CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (NTU SCARCE), will focus on four research areas that will look into recycling and recovering materials from:
Silicon-based solar panels
Printed circuit boards from discarded e-waste
Detoxifying plastic parts in e-waste
For example, the joint lab will look into developing eco-friendly methods to recycle lithium ion batteries, and extract up to 75% of metals such as cobalt, nickel, lithium and manganese, which can be re-used to produce new lithium ion batteries. One of the solutions involves using “green chemistry” – a method that focuses on using chemical processes and earth-friendly products that minimizes the use and generation of hazardous substances.
Researchers will also develop methods to separate and recover as much organics and ceramics as possible from Printed Circuit Boards for a variety of applications. Current industrial recycling processes emit harmful pollutants and/or liquid waste that require costly treatment processes so that they can be safely released into the environment.
With the same objective of recovering precious materials and reducing environmental harm, the lab will also find sustainable solutions to process solar panel e-waste and toxic plastic materials. Researchers will explore ways to extract silicon and metals from solar panels, which could help reduce the costs to produce new panels. They will also develop a systematic approach to safely sort, detoxify and recycle hazardous plastic materials from e-wastes.
(Sources: Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; Channel NewsAsia)