Raw Materials and Recycling Ensure Production

Scientists in front of a furnace © IME/Martin Braun

RWTH holds IdeaCamp to optimize recycling chain

  Process Metallurgy © IME/Martin Braun Researchers of the Department of Process Metallurgy and Metal Recycling (IME) are working predominantly on new technologies for economically feasible metal recycling in the electronic waste recycling sector.

"A country’s economic success – Germany’s as well as others’ – is dependent on the ability to quickly and in short cycles manufacture leading-edge products and build long-term economic relationships across the globe,” emphasizes Professor Karl Bernhard Friedrich of RWTH Aachen. The director of the Institute for Process Metallurgy and Metal Recycling – IME – held a lecture on the newest technological advancements in the field of electronic waste recycling. According to him, innovative and environmentally friendly technologies are only feasible, however, as long as the needed materials and sources of energy are available in sufficient amounts and at reasonable cost. “The leverage effect of economically strategic metals is already significant,” explains Friedrich. Such that in national economies who are, like Germany, dependent on importing raw materials, entire value chains in production could be brought to a standstill due to a bottleneck in supply. This is particularly true, for instance, with regard to rare earth element resources, which are an essential component in “green technologies,” such as wind power or electric mobility, as well as in the field of electronics.

The lecture took place in the framework of the IdeaCamp on optimizing the recycling chain of waste electric and electronic equipment. The event had been organized under the direction of the IME and the EIT RawMaterials in order to identify the challenges and potentials with regard to recycling waste electric and electronic equipment. Professor Rudolf Mathar, RWTH Vice-Rector for Research and Structure, delivered the opening speech. In a plenary session, three topic sessions, and other workshops, various lectures and discussions among the most diverse actors and interest groups in the field of waste electronics recycling took place. It was a declared goal to shine a light on the current scholarly and economic state of affairs in the field of waste electric and electronic recycling while also coming up with ideas to raise people’s awareness with regard to the importance of using raw materials more efficiently. Around 75 participants delivered ideas for future projects, for instance designing and illustrating value chains for specific metals under consideration of technological, economic and legislative aspects.

"The optimal use of limited resources for long-term technological success is particularly important," emphasizes Friedrich. In order to maintain competitive ability, intelligent and sustainable solutions are needed to process more increasingly complex and thus less valuable resources. Profitable metal recycling would maximize resource efficiency. Recycling can only be considered resource-efficient when end of life products like worn out smartphones and their contents can be reintroduced to the consumer as valuable metals. Scientists at RWTH are developing an interdisciplinary and application-oriented research projects with visions and solutions to address this.

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Source: Press and Public Relations