Eco-friendly electronics glue "unsticks" on demand
Disassembling scrapped electronics into their various components for recycling is a laborious process, and frequently involves the use of harsh, environmentally-unfriendly solvents. Now, however, scientists have developed a magnetically-deactivated glue that could address these problems.
Created in a partnership between Britain's University of Sussex, University of Reading and Stanelco RF Technologies, the polyurethane adhesive contains tiny iron oxide particles. Intended to be used in the assembly of electronic devices, it securely bonds together materials such as glass, wood, aluminum and polyvinyl chloride.
Once such a device has been discarded and sent off for recycling, it's placed in a machine that generates an alternating magnetic field that oscillates at a specific frequency. Exposure to this field causes the iron oxide particles to heat up, melting the glue so that the components can easily be picked apart.
The magnetic field itself is relatively weak and safe, producing no heat in the bare hands of people working with it, and it only needs to be applied to the glue for as little as 30 seconds. Additionally, a field of the required frequency is unlikely to be encountered out in the real world, while the device is still in use.
"In essence, we could have a big conveyor belt of products going through a magnetic field where they enter fully assembled, and come out the other end completely dismantled," says Sussex's Dr. Barnaby Greenland. "At the moment, glued products can often only be dismantled using chemicals, so not only are we saving items from going to landfill, but we're also reducing the need to use potentially harmful substances when it comes to getting rid of products."
A paper on the research, which also involved Reading's Prof. Wayne Hayes, was recently published in the European Polymer Journal.
Source: University of Sussex