Collin Arocho
23 November 2020

Students at Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) have unveiled their solution to aid in the fight against e-waste. The group, known as Team Core, have developed a smelter to recycle electronic waste, like batteries and old cell phones, to convert the rubbish into raw materials and extract the rare metals that were used – in an aim to reduce waste, lessen the dependence on foreign mines with unsafe working conditions and ultimately contribute to the “zero age” where all human waste can be converted back into raw materials for reuse.

Obsidian is one of the metals that’s separated in the smelter. It can be reused as ballast, for dike reinforcement and in infrastructure. Credit: Esmee Messemaker

The core of the smelter is a crucible, filled with a waste mix and heated to a maximum of 1,600 degrees. The idea is that part of that mix consists of energy-rich waste, such as the last remnants of car recycling, printed circuit boards and sludge. The metals from the electronic waste in the mix sink to the bottom of the smelter and form a layer of metal. On top of that, a layer of obsidian and basalt is formed. Once melted, the mix is cooled down and analyzed. With the help of Prorail, the student team is investigating the possibility of reusing the obsidian and basalt as ballast, while the metal can be sent to the metal industry as a recycled raw material.