Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are used in many products such as televisions, lamps, light sources, etc. In addition, they have penetrated the automotive lighting market to a greater extent. However, today there is no suitable process for recycling these items. But now researchers have developed a way to mechanically separate LEDs.
Modern light sources are made from a variety of materials, the outer casing is made of glass or plastic, the heat sink contains ceramic or aluminum, and the resistors and cables contain copper. The most valuable materials are inside the LED itself, which are indium and gallium in semiconductor diodes and rare earth elements ytterbium or yttrium in phosphors, which make diodes relatively expensive and marginally profitable. â€œNow recyclers are starting to collect LED products, but because there is no suitable recycling process, they are often just saved. The main goal is to recycle valuable materials. It is only a matter of time before recycling companies start to process LEDs.â€ Jrg Zimmermann of the Enkhov Material Recovery and Resource Strategy project team said.
Use shock waves to help separate components
The researchers used the "electro-hydraulic pulverization" process to break the LED luminaire into parts without damaging the LED itself. It uses a shock wave generated by an electric pulse in the water bath to separate them at a predetermined breaking point of the assembly, and then the components can be separated. Recycling. The researchers adjusted their experimental setups to recycle LED-modified fluorescent tubes that resemble conventional fluorescent tubes and use standard fluorescent tube sockets. â€œThis approach is also applicable in principle to LEDs of other sizes, such as LEDs for televisions or headlights, and LEDs in other appliances,â€ explains Zimmermann.
A prerequisite for an efficient recycling process is the neat separation of components. "In order to effectively separate and recycle all components of an LED luminaire, a completely different approach is required to produce a large amount of semiconductor and fluorescent materials," Zimmermann said. If the entire tube is crushed, it will be more difficult to separate the resulting material mixture. Decomposing the LED luminaires into the component level also makes it easier to recycle more of the material contained in it by collecting a large number of similar components that are rich in these elements. Zimmermann clarified that this process is only profitable for recyclers and manufacturers.
â€œWe are still testing whether the comminution process can be repeated until the required material is separated,â€ Zimmerman said. Researchers can adjust the parameters of the experimental setup, such as the type and amount of liquid, the size of the vessel, or the pulse voltage, so that the separation Accurately occurs at a specific break point. â€œSpecifically, the number of pulses determines how the components will be separated,â€ the electro-hydraulic comminution process is currently being studied and further refined, and is being extended to other LED applications. â€œOur research has shown that mechanical separation is an improvement in LEDs. A viable way to recycle economics," Zimmermann said.
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