France decided to reduce waste from electronic devices. Rare earths are crucial components, but hard to recycle sustainably.
Now, an Iranian research team is leveraging a scientific phenomenon that is supercritical, literally.
Similar to a pressure cooker, water or organic solvents are subjected to extreme heat at high pressure and thus don’t change into steam.
The resulting supercritical fluid (SCF) behaves like liquid – take boiling water in which salt dissolves fast – but has the characteristics of steam.
Therefore, it can be used to dissolve metals in electronic components. Reducing the pressure turns the SCF into steam and the separated materials can be trapped.
Cooling changes the steam back to a clean fluid which can be used again.
Goodbye electronic waste.