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Technology challenges to recover precious and special metals from complex products

TitleTechnology challenges to recover precious and special metals from complex products
Publication TypeProceedings Article
Year of Conference2009
AuthorsHagelueken C, Meskers C
Conference NameR'09 World Congress
Conference Start Date14/09/2009
Conference LocationDavos, Switzerland
KeywordsElectronics, Photovoltaics, Precious metals, recycling, Special Metals
AbstractIn our R’07 contribution "The challenge of open cycles" we elaborated on the general constraints in achieving a true recycling society using the example of consumer electronics and cars [Hagelüken 2007]. We showed that the lifecycle structure has a major impact. This contribution now focuses on economic and technology challenges to recycle precious and special metals. These "technology metals" are crucial ingredients for many high tech and clean tech products and their use in such applications has increased significantly over the last years. However, their absolute mass in a single product is usually very low and they are mostly embedded in complex assemblies and connections with other elements, which complicates recycling. Two main groups of products need to be distinguished. Firstly, products in which technology metals are combined with precious metals, so often inherent economic recycling incentives exist, which can lead to additional recovery of special metals as by-products if appropriate processes are used (e.g. mobile phones). More challenging are products where such “paying metals” are missing and the special metals content does not offer sufficient economic attraction (e.g. thin film photovoltaics). To address both product groups metallurgical recovery processes need to be further developed while measures need to be taken to ensure that end-of-life products enter the most advanced recycling channels.
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