Electrochemical Recycling Electronic Constituents of Value (E-RECOV)

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Electrochemical Recycling Electronic Constituents of Value (eRECOV) offers a game-changing solution to growing challenges of electronic waste. The economical and environmentally sound process eliminates the need for traditional recycling methods such as smelting and cyanide leaching. The chemistry in eRECOV is continuously regenerated, and its solution is reusable. These efficiencies add up to a process that saves money, uses less energy and greatly reduces the waste stream.

The unique process incorporates an electrochemical cell to efficiently dissolve metals from devices, leading to more complete recovery of recyclable materials. In addition to precious metals (gold, silver, palladium), eRECOV efficiently reclaims copper, tin, zinc, lead, nickel and rare earth elements.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the United States generates nearly 3.5 million tons of electronic scrap annually, an amount that continues to grow. Today, America remains the world’s largest producer of electronic waste — “The Saudi Arabia of Scrap” according to Adam Minter’s book “Junkyard Planet.” Globally, mobile phone users alone are forecast to top 5 billion by 2019. Considering that most cellphones are designed to last less than two years, it’s clear the world faces a critical choice: recycle or contend with a mountain of e-waste.

Recycling presents a responsible way to keep outdated electronics from ending up in unwanted places where they can harm people, land and water. It also offers an opportunity to reclaim valuable metals for new products. Electronic waste is a rich feedstock for many of these metals. The United Nations has estimated that the value of materials that could be recycled from e-waste approaches $52 billion, including 300 tons of gold — equivalent to 11 percent of the world’s 2013 gold production. In fact, gold concentrations in e-waste are 2000 times greater than in the ores from which it was originally mined.

Yet the U.S. has no appreciable e-waste recycling or refining capacity. The problem has been a lack of affordable or environmentally friendly recycling options. The modern world desperately needs an alternative, less toxic process to recover precious metals from discarded electronic devices.

- Currently, much of the e-waste generated in the United States and other modern countries is shipped to developing countries in Africa or Asia where it is recycled or landfilled with environmentally deleterious methods. Processing in these countries typically involves manual deconstruction and open pit burning to remove non-metal insulation and support components. These uncontrolled processes expose workers and surrounding communities to a host of harmful compounds including heavy metals and dioxin.

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  • ABOUT THE ENTRANT

  • Name:
    Dong Ding
  • Type of entry:
    team
    Team members:
    Tedd Lister, Luis Diaz Aldana
  • Profession:
    Scientist
  • Dong is inspired by:
    Dr. Dong Ding is a senior staff engineer/scientist in the directorate of Energy and Environmental Science & Technology at Idaho National Laboratory, leading the chemical processing group of 21 researchers in the electrochemical area. He is a principal investigator for multi-projects including direct funded and LDRD. Dr. Ding is a technical lead of HydroGEN of Energy Materials Network under the DOE-Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)-Fuel Cell Technology Office. His lab has fully equipped capabilities of HT roll-to-roll (HT-R2R), solid oxide additive manufacturing (SOAM), high throughput materials testing (HTMT), elevated temperature electrocatalysis (ETEC), advanced synthesis and bulk supply of powders (ASBSP) as well as electrode engineering and diagnosis (EED). Dr. Ding is also an affiliate faculty and adjunct professor in the Departments of Chemical & Materials Engineering at New Mexico State University and University of Idaho, respectively. Prior to joining INL, he was Sr. Materials Engineer at Redox Power Systems in Maryland. Dr. Ding received his doctorate in material science at the University of Science & Technology of China (USTC), where he also earned a bachelor’s in materials chemistry. He was a postdoctoral fellow at West Virginia and National Energy Technology Lab (NETL) in Morgantown, W.V. (2009-2010) and at Georgia Institute of Technology (2010-2014). Dr. Ding has over 90 peer-reviewed publications with an H index of 35 where 3 are highly cited (ESI) and 32 have an impact factor >10. He also holds 3 US patent and 11 patent applications. Dr. Ding served as an editorial board member for Journal of Power Sources Advances. He received several prestigious awards including the Most Promising Asian American Engineer of the Year (AAEOY) 2020 and Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) far West Awards in the category of Outstanding Technology Development. His current research interests relate to INL’s two primary initiatives: advanced design and manufacturing (ADM) and integrated energy systems (IES), including natural gas upgrading, high temperature electrolysis, advanced manufacturing of solid oxide cells/stacks, CO2 conversion, ammonia electrosynthesis, fuel cells, electrocatalysis, and batteries.
  • Patent status:
    patented