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Highlights in Chemical Technology

Chemical technology news from across RSC Publishing.

Expanding waste to reduce waste

16 June 2009

Polymer waste from discarded TV and computer screens can be transformed into a high value material that could be used in biomedicine, say UK scientists.

broken LCD

Recycling broken LCD screens will reduce the burden of electronic waste on the environment

James Clark and colleagues at the University of York expanded the structure of waste polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA) from liquid crystal display (LCD) screens to form a mesoporous material with a high surface area. Because PVA is biocompatible, Clark claims the expanded PVA could be used for enzyme immobilisation, tissue scaffolds or drug delivery, all of which require high surface area substrates.

"This technique provides an exciting new method for recovering materials that would otherwise go to waste"
- Martin Goosey, Loughborough University, UK
The team heated the PVA in water in a microwave, refrigerated it for 12 hours then washed it with ethanol to give the expanded product. They found that iodine, which is present in waste PVA, is essential for the expansion process.

LCD waste from electrical and electronic equipment is the fastest growing waste stream in the European Union. Although PVA is not a major environmental hazard, wasting it consumes a non-renewable resource, explains Clark. 'Reuse in new LCDs is unlikely, so we need to find new applications for this plastic and thus avoid turning a useful material into a burden on the environment,' he says.

Martin Goosey, an expert in electronics at Loughborough University, UK, celebrates the research. 'There are increasing numbers of LCDs being discarded and this technique provides an exciting new method for recovering materials that would otherwise go to waste,' he comments.

Clark's team is currently looking at other waste streams to identify more potentially useful components.

Amaya Camara-Campos

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Link to journal article

Expanding the potential for waste polyvinyl-alcohol
Andrew J. Hunt, Vitaly L. Budarin, Simon W. Breeden, Avtar S. Matharu and James H. Clark, Green Chem., 2009, 11, 1332
DOI: 10.1039/b906607a

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Electronic Waste Management

Electronic Waste Management

Copyright: 2008
R E Hester

An up-to-date review of the scale of the electronic waste problem, the impact of recent legislation, current and future methods for treatment, recycling and disposal.