A printed circuit board that falls apart when submerged in hot water has been created by researchers at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL). This innovative new technique allows resistors, capacitors, and integrated circuits to be removed intact, thereby eliminating downtime between recovery and reuse.
Amazingly, the self-disassembling circuit board is made of unzippable polymeric layers that are able to easily tolerate daily heat stress and thermal cycling.
However, once submerged in warm water, the parts separate easily. This technique even works in flat circuit boards or flexible and 3D configurations. Up to 90% of the electronic parts can be reused and recycled immediately.
This endeavor, under Britain’s ReUSE (Reusable, Unzippable, Sustainable Electronics) project may lead the way in salvaged electronic material.
In sharp contrast, under current disassembly methods, only 2% of the material in circuit boards can be re-used. A plethora of companies, Apple included, are notorious for electronics that are complicated to disassemble, making recycling or reuse difficult, if not impossible.