Efficient Manufacturing of Recyclable Composite Laminates for Electrical Goods (ReCollect)

Lead Participant: Jiva Materials Ltd

Abstract

As "smart" devices, be they phones, televisions, fridges or cars, become ever more prevalent in everyday life, so the requirement for electronic circuit boards increases.

Currently, a common material for manufacturing circuit boards is a laminate consisting of a woven fibreglass cloth impregnated with an epoxy resin. This material provides the right balance of properties - it is stiff, strong, electrically insulating, affordable and has the required resistance to external factors such as heat, humidity and fire.

However, a significant drawback of existing glass-epoxy circuit board laminates is that they are very difficult to recycle at end-of-life. This is because the epoxy resin cannot be melted (it is a so-called "thermosetting" plastic). Furthermore, the separation of the glass fibres from the epoxy resin is highly problematic. At best, waste circuit boards tend to be shredded and incinerated to recover the high-value metals in the circuitry and components. However, often they will simply end up in landfill.

This proposal offers an alternative way of managing end-of-life circuit boards. Rather than producing boards from difficult-to-recycle fibreglass-epoxy, this project is based upon a new circuit board material technology known as "Soluboard". Soluboard consists of a novel natural fibre reinforced plastic. At end-of-life, Soluboard can be recycled simply by immersing it in hot water. This causes the plastic to dissolve (in a similar way to the plastic wrapping used in detergent capsules for washing machines and dishwashers) so that the reinforcing natural fibres can be separated easily for reprocessing or composting, and the electronic components and circuitry can be recovered intact.

To date, working concepts of electronic devices with Soluboard circuit boards have been developed, produced and tested successfully. In order to progress the invention, what is now needed is a method of manufacturing Soluboard with the performance and quality demanded by producers of electronic goods, and in the high quantities they require. This is the primary aim of this project - to demonstrate the feasibility of producing Soluboard in high volumes and to show that the resulting circuit boards can match the performance of the incumbent glass-epoxy laminates.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Jiva Materials Ltd £427,350 £ 299,145
 

Participant

Netcomposites Limited, Chesterfield £361,768 £ 253,238
The Institute of Circuit Technology Limited, TONBRIDGE £15,631 £ 10,942

Publications

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