Whether you call it E-waste, E-scrap or WEEE, pyrolysis can be used to help turn printed circuit boards into cash quickly and effectively. Sepro has been working closely with E-waste pyrolysis specialists to develop complete, turn-key processes for the recovery of precious and heavy metals from E-Waste. We’re now very excited to be sharing some process details with the public. Our first installment today focuses on the pyrolysis step of the process.

The Pyrolysis Process

In simple terms, pyrolysis means heating without oxygen. In other words, it means applying heat but not burning or incinerating the material. Pyrolysis is a process that’s been used  since the 1950’s and has gone through many improvements over the past several decades. Recently, many improvements have been made that allow for the production of clean, natural gas from recycled plastics and other waste. In fact, many countries now consider the pyrolysis of biomass to be a renewable energy source!

WEEE / E-Waste Pyrolysis

When WEEE / E-waste is pyrolyzed there are several changes that take place in the printed circuit boards. First, the solder connections on the board melt and release many of the metal components. Second, the epoxies in the fiberglass break down and the layers of the board start to separate. Third, the fiberglass becomes brittle and can be easily broken apart. These physical changes, along with a few others, release the heavy metals and the precious metals contained in the board. The copper foil that is sandwiched between layers of fiberglass is released in relatively large pieces. The precious metals fall away from melted solder connections and the brittle fibers. You can see from the photos above that the pyrolyzed circuit boards looks very different from their original form!

Metal Separation and Recovery

Sepro has been developing unique processes for the recovery of heavy metals and precious metals from WEEE / E-waste. We will talk more about these developments in future blog posts and add information to the E-Waste page on our website as it’s available. Please check back often for updates. In the meantime, please contact us for more information!