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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W019167/1
Title: Thermal Recovery of Functional Coatings (TReFCo)
Principal Investigator: Baker, Dr J
Other Investigators:
Harper, Dr G D J Margadonna, Professor S Anderson, Dr P
Deganello, Professor D Davies, Professor M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
adphos Group (International) Deregallera Ltd Elemental Inks & Chemicals
Keeling and Walker Limited PLUG LIFE CONSULTING LTD Precision Varionic International Ltd PVi
Tata Steel WRAP
Department: College of Engineering
Organisation: Swansea University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 02 May 2022 Ends: 01 May 2025 Value (£): 1,005,537
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
02 Nov 2021 Sustainable manufacturing Full Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
When devices such as computers, smart phones and batteries are sent for recycling not all of the materials are captured for use in new devices. The metals are most likely to be recycled because they are easy to separate and their methods of recycling are well established. Specialist coatings often made with rare and expensive materials enable our modern electronics to work. However these coatings often cause problems when it comes to recycling, they can mean that the metals are more contaminated and so these coatings are often burnt off, causing pollution and adding cost to the recycling process. It also means that the expensive cleverly engineered coating has been lost and its value not realised.

TReFCo aims to develop a low cost method for removing these coatings so that they can be reused to make new devices. This will have multiple benefits; it will mean that valuable raw materials are kept within the supply chain, supporting the UK economy. It will also mean that the materials that they were coated on are cleaner prior to their recycling process ensuring a purer recycled product at a lower cost.

The method employed by TReFCo will be to subject the coatings to near infrared radiation to burn the binder (glue) that holds the coating in place without damaging the coating material or the substrate material.

TReFCo will also develop new adhesives that will 'unglue' when exposed to near infrared radiation, making it easier (and cheaper) to take devices apart before they are recycled. This could also be used within a repair process.

In addition to the technical developments during the project a lifecycle analysis will be undertaken - this will ensure that researchers fully understand the environmental costs of producing materials and recycling them. Identifying any areas that are environmentally damaging in order that they can be avoided by material design or by changing the processing methods. In all the aim of the project is to make the possibility of a truly circular economy one step closer to being a reality.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.swan.ac.uk