Discarded electronic hardware, including bits and pieces that helped build the information superhighway, can be recycled into an additive that makes asphalt
Discarded electronic hardware, including bits and pieces that helped build the information superhighway, can be recycled into an additive that makes asphalt paving material for highways, according to researchers in China. The researchers describe development of a new recycling process that can convert discarded electronic circuit boards into an asphalt ìmodifier.î As reported by ScienceDaily.com, the material makes paving-material asphalt that is cheaper, longer lasting, and more environmentally friendly than conventional asphalt.
In the new study, Zhenming Xu and colleagues note that millions of tons of electronic waste (e-waste) pile up each year. The printed circuit boards used in personal computers, cell phones and other electronic gear contain toxic metals such as lead and mercury and pose a disposal problem. In addition, the boards are difficult to recycle. Xu's group, however, realized that the boards, which provide mechanical support and connections for transistors and other electronic components, contain glass fibers and plastic resins that can substantially strengthen asphalt paving.
The scientists describe a new recycling method that quickly separates toxic metals from circuit boards, yielding a fine, metal-free powder. When mixed into asphalt in laboratory tests, the powder produced a stronger paving material that is less apt to soften at high temperatures, the researchers say.