The CORE students team at the Technical University of Eindhoven might have found a way to recycle metals to their purest form and hence provide a solution to the rising shortage of metals.
Left to natural elements, it can take as much as 35 million years to recycle waste, especially metals. For example, waste ends up in rivers via contaminated air and eroded rocks. These rivers bring it out to the ocean where it slowly sinks down to the bottom of the sea. There it gradually disappears between the cracks in the tectonic plates under the seabed into the earth’s core, which is so hot that the materials disintegrate back into pure elements. The core pushes those elements, such as metals, back to the earth’s crust where people are able to mine these.
This process can take millions of years—a far too lengthy process for meeting the current demands of industry. “That’s why we’ve developed an incinerator where this process can be carried out in about one week,” says Dirk van Meer, captain of Team CORE.
Recycling metals in this way is not restricted to the production of electronics. It also solves a social problem. “Old phones and computers are currently mainly being sent to Africa and China. There, small children are forced to remove any useful parts that can be sold,” says van Meer. “The combustion process which is used to destroy the electronics causes the rivers to become acidic because of which the children often suffer from lethal levels of lead poisoning.”
However, these scenes can become a thing of the past if factories are set up in each province and equipped with the kind of incinerator developed by the Eindhoven student team. “Then the waste won’t have to be transported very far. That makes a big difference in terms of environmental pollution and costs,” says van Meer.
Construction work on the first factory will start at the end of 2020 in Duiven. This site will mostly process waste generated in automobile recycling. At the moment, the team is actively involved in preparation such as arranging environmental permits. “We always provide multidisciplinary teams wherein enthusiastic students as well as experienced professionals from the industry get to work together,” he says.
Following the factory in Duiven, the student team aims to build a factory on the Metalot site in Budel, also in the Netherlands.
All the factories with the recycling incinerators that the CORE team wants to set up will be operated by separate companies that are collaborating with one another. For instance, IVER BV will run the factory in the north. “Private investors, such as the Noordelijke Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (NOM, Northern Development Company) and Rabobank will finance the factory over there. Ultimately, a private investor’s company will manage the factory,” according to van Meer.
A number of students from the student team will get to work in that company. The rest will continue to focus on research. The student team itself is a foundation wherein students will remain involved in the development of the technology.
Click the link below to learn more about the incinerator being developed by the CORE students team at the Technical University of Eindhoven: