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Project Researches Recycling Of Tantalum From WEEE

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Project Researches Recycling Of Tantalum From WEEE
Project Researches Recycling Of Tantalum From WEEE

Video: Project Researches Recycling Of Tantalum From WEEE

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A research project is to develop processes to extract valuable tantalum from waste electrical equipment. The Fraunhofer Application Center "Resource Efficiency" coordinates the consortium from science and industry, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, BMBF for short. The joint project "Ireta" wants to develop a recycling path through which tantalum is recovered both economically and ecologically compatible. The results are to be implemented in a pilot plant.

Tantalum: Numerous applications - critical support

Different designs of tantalum electrolytic capacitors
Different designs of tantalum electrolytic capacitors

The transition metal tantalum has many applications in our modern technology. Its very high melting point of approx. 3000 ° C and its corrosion resistance make it a coveted material in the chemical industry and medical technology. The main area of ​​application, however, is electronics. As the eponymous component in tantalum capacitors, the transition metal enables the construction of components that have a very high electrical capacity with a small volume. The tantalum capacitors make it possible to miniaturize electrical devices.

However, tantalum is largely extracted from the politically unstable Great Lakes region in Africa. The tantalum mining is used here partly to finance armed conflicts. That is why the US Securities and Exchange Commission considers this tantalum to be a source of conflict. In order to be able to use harmless tantalum, appropriately certified products - such as those obtained from the OECD and the Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative - must be purchased. The recycling rate of tantalum from old devices is less than one percent because it is lost in the conventional copper recycling process.

Examine and evaluate different recycling routes

The Ireta project, which is being funded with around 700,000 euros, is therefore researching recycling routes that use completely new process routes in connection with tantalum. This is intended to build up secondary production, which should reduce the import requirement of tantalum accordingly. A falling import requirement also means economic advantages for industry, since security of supply in Germany increases.

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The planned recycling route starts with the tantalum capacitors being identified by means of optical recognition software on the boards of old electronic devices and then being dismantled fully automatically. This is followed by mechanical processing of the capacitors into a powder. With three different recycling routes based on chemical transport, functionalized nanoparticles and electrochemical deposition, the tantalum is recovered from this powder in its pure form. A comparative evaluation of the recycling routes from an economic and ecological point of view is intended to provide information about which of these three processes can be used to set up a pilot plant.

A total of four partners from science contribute their expertise to the project. The work for the optical detection and removal of the capacitors should take place at the Aschaffenburg University of Applied Sciences. Project coordination as well as mechanical processing and electrochemical deposition are carried out by the Fraunhofer application center "Resource Efficiency" in Aschaffenburg and Alzenau. The Fraunhofer project group for material cycles and resource strategy IWKS in Alzenau will investigate the recycling routes via nanoparticles and chemical transport. The bifa Umweltinstitut GmbH in Augsburg takes over the life cycle assessment for the comparative evaluation of the recycling routes.

The industrial partners Mairec Edelmetallgesellschaft mbH from Alzenau, Iolitec GmbH from Heilbronn and Tantec GmbH from Gelnhausen complement the project team. (kj)

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