Journal of Emerging Trends in Engineering and Applied Sciences (JETEAS) 3 (1): 12-18

© Scholarlink Research Institute Journals, 2012 (ISSN: 2141-7016)
Journal of Emerging Trends in Engineering and Applied Sciences (JETEAS) 3(1):12-18(ISSN: 2141-7016)

A Review on Printed Circuit Board Recycling Technology

Johan Sohaili, Shantha Kumari Muniyandi and Siti Suhaila Mohamad

Department of Environmental Engineering,
Faculty of Civil Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, 81310 UTM Skudai, Malaysia
Corresponding Author: Johan Sohaili
From the use of renewable resources and environmental protection viewpoints, recycling of waste printed
circuit boards (PCBs) receives wide concerns as the amounts of scrap PCBs increases dramatically. However,
treatment for waste PCBs is a challenge due to the fact that PCBs are diverse and complex in terms of materials
and components makeup as well as the original equipment's manufacturing processes. Therefore, it is urgent to
develop a proper recycle technology for waste PCBs. Several recycle technologies were review in this paper.
From the review, it can be said that, PCBs recycling process usually includes three process which is
pretreatment, physical recycling, and chemical recycling. PCBs recycling generally start from the pretreatment
stage, which include disassembly of the reusable and toxic parts. After pretreatment process, PCBs are treated
using physical recycling process. Physical recycling involves a preliminary step were size reduction of the waste
is performed followed by a step in which metallic and non-metallic fractions are separated and collected for
further management. In the end, materials are finally recovered after chemical recycling process. In this review,
chemical recycling consists of pyrolysis process and gasification process. While, metal fraction can be treated
by pyrometallurgical, hydrometallurgical, or biotechnological process
Keywords: environmental protection, printed circuit board, nonmetallic, recovery, separating technology,
recycling flow
INTRODUCTION an attempt to offer an overview of the latest results on
The production of electrical and electronic equipment recycling waste PCBs. The objective of this paper is
(EEE) is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the to present information on recycling methods currently
manufacturing industry in the world. At the same being used in the industry. In general, the recycling
time, technological innovation and intense marketing methods of waste PCBs can be summarized as
engender a rapid replacement process. Every year, physical recycling methods and chemical recycling
20–50 million tonnes of waste electrical and methods. Physical processing for the separating the
electronic equipment (WEEE) are generated metal fraction and non-metal fraction from waste
worldwide, which could bring serious risks to the PCBs includes shape separation, magnetic separation,
human health and the environment (LaDou., 2006). It electric conductivity-based separation, density-based
is not only a crisis of quantity but also a crisis arising separation and corona electrostatic separation, (Cui
from toxic ingredients, such as the lead, beryllium, and Zhang., 2008). From the review, we found that
mercury, cadmium, and brominated flame retardants chemical recycling methods include pyrolysis,
(BFRs) that pose both occupational and gasification and combustion. Metal fraction can be
environmental health threats (Owens et al., 2007). treated by pyrometallurgical, hydrometallurgical or
The PCBs are the platform upon which biotechnological process.
microelectronic components such as semiconductor
chips and capacitors are mounted. PCBs provide the Recycling Process for Waste Printed Circuit
electrical interconnections between components and Board
are found in virtually all EEE. Recycling of waste Recycling process for waste PCBs includes three
PCBs is an important subject not only from the processes which is pretreatment, physical recycling,
treatment for waste but also from the recovery of and chemical recycling. PCBs recycling generally
precious metal. In general, waste PCBs contains start from the pretreatment stage, which include
approximately 30% metals and 70% nonmetals (Duan disassembly of the reusable and toxic parts and then
et al., 2011). The typical metals in PCBs consist of PCBs are treated using physical recycling or
copper, iron, tin, nickel, lead, zinc, silver, gold, and chemical recycling process. (Johan et al., 2011).
palladium (He et al., 2006). Due to its complex Metal fraction can be treated by pyrometallurgical,
composition, PCBs recycling requires a hydrometallurgical, or biotechnological process.
multidisciplinary approach intended to separate Figure 1 shows stage for recycling process of printed
fibers, metals and plastic fractions and reduce circuit board.
environmental pollution, which are here reviewed in

Shape separation by tilted plate and sieves is recycling always involves a preliminary step where the most basic method that has been used in recycling size reduction of the waste is performed followed by industry (Gungor and Gupta. easier management of PCB waste. it is acted upon by a magnetic force. In semi-automatic materials. Effective Fujita. disassembly stage. in particular. Most of the recycle plants separators makes it possible to separate copper alloys utilize manual dismantling.7 mm). Density-base separation of particles such approaches. but other metals are mainly distributed in the fine fractions (< 5 mm). low-intensity drum order to simplify the subsequent recovery of separators are widely used for the recovery of materials. the particle’s cohesive force to a ceramics and residual metals can serve as good filler solid wall. 2010). electronic components are removed by a as sink-float separation. the coarse fractions (> 6. 1997). particle shape separator to recover copper from electric cable waste printed circuit board scrap and Size Reduction and Separation waste television and personal computers (Owada et A crushing stage is necessary for an easier further al. The there is a potential for dioxin formation when this separation methods were classified into four groups. a mesh aperture. The difference in 13 . the time the particles take to pass through Thermosetting resins.. Further particle field. The reuse of components has first priority. jigging. Al is mainly distributed in waste matrix. we shape of particles play crucial roles in mechanical can see that the use of high-intensity separators recycling processes because the metal distribution is makes it possible to separate copper alloys from the a function of size range. (2003) and Veit et al. pyrolysis Shape separation techniques have been mainly probably occurs during the dismantling.. The logical one is that which classifies separators as either local temperature of PCB rapidly increases due to dry or wet. dismantling the hazardous components is Shape separation by tilted plate and sieves is the most essential as well as it is also common to dismantle basic method that has been used in recycling highly valuable precious metals components PCBs in industry. which means developed to control properties of particles. The principles underlying this process makes use of the difference which is the particle velocity on a tilted Physical Recycling solid wall. (2005) separates materials of different electric reuse of components and elimination of hazardous conductivity such non ferrous metals from inert materials from the environment. Various size reduction to 5-10 mm can be carried out by classification schemes of magnetic separators have means of cutting mills. The main application of dry magnetic impacting and reaches over 250°C during crushing. separation are also combination of heating and application of impact. The PCBs can then be sent to a facility for ferromagnetic metals from non-ferrous metals and further dismantling for reuse or reclamation of other non-magnetic wastes. recycling chain. Physical liquid. low- separation of these materials based on the differences intensity drum separators are widely used for the on their physical characteristics is the key for recovery of ferromagnetic metals from non-ferrous developing a mechanical recycling system. 2011). An inclined a step in which metallic and non-metallic fractions conveyor and inclined vibrating plate were used as a are separated and collected for further management. connections and heating temperature of 40-50 °C higher than the melting point of the solder is Shape Separation necessary for effective dismantling. separators is either the removal of tramp iron and so a pyrolytic cleavage of chemical bonds in the strongly magnetic impurities or the concentration of a produces brominated and not brominated phenols and strongly magnetic valuable component (Syoboda and aromatic/aliphatic ethers (Li et al. to help conservation of resources. 2003). scrap is heating (Duan et al. In Table 1. Electric conductivity-based separation such as Eddy current separation. vibration forces to open-soldered in PCB wastes. Density-based Separations Almost all the mechanical recycling processes have a Several different methods are employed to separate heavier materials from lighter ones. The use of high-intensity electric components. centrifugal mills or rotating been introduced and probably the most practical and sample dividers equipped with a bottom sieve. used to separate metal from nonmetallic components shearing..Journal of Emerging Trends in Engineering and Applied Sciences (JETEAS) 3(1):12-18(ISSN: 2141-7016) Nearly all of the current recycling technologies certain effective size range and mechanical separation available for PCBs recycling include a sorting or processes is performed in a variety of technique. The PCB is cut into pieces of approximately 1-2 cm2 usually with Magnetic Separation shredders or granulators giving the starting batch When a magnetisable particle is placed in a magnetic easily manageable for treatments. glass fibers or cellulose paper. Magnetic separators. from the PCBs waste. corona Electronic components have to be dismantled from electrostatic separation and triboelectric separation as PCB assembly as the most important step in their reported by Cui and Forssberg. Magnetic separators. 1998).. and the particle settling velocity in a for different resin matrix composites. Size and metals and other non-magnetic wastes.

The motion of a particle in a fluid is the electric conductivity or specific electric resistance dependent not only on the particle’s density. 1994) but is now widely used for other purposes including foundry casting sand. such as independence of particle shape. 2007) (Hoberg et al. As shown in Table 1. The separators were initially developed to recover non-ferrous metals from shredded automobile scrap or for treatment of municipal solid waste (Wilson et al. and chars which can be used as chemical (gases and oils) is included in the chemical recycling feed stocks or fuels. close size control corona electrostatic separation in recycling of waste. hydrogenolytic degradation and Pyrolysis (Fig. oils. depolymerization process by using Pyrolysis supercritical fluids. The extreme difference in 1988). such as water or air (Wills et al. In the past decade. one of the most significant developments in the recycling industry was the introduction of Eddy current separators whose operability is based on the use of rare earth permanent Currently.1 . 3) refers to decomposition treated by pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical of the waste polymers into their monomers or some approaches.) Separation of plastics < 5 mm Separation of the components cause different force (non conductors ) directions. glass cullet. non-conductive fractions. shredder fluff. the latter often being the resistance to motion utilized to separate raw materials into conductive and offered by a fluid. 1993). techniques which is Eddy current separation. There are many Electric conductivity-based separation separates obvious advantages of triboelectric electrostatic materials of different electric conductivity (or separation.. 4) in PCB leads to the formation of gasification process. there are three low energy consumption. of feeds to gravity processes is required in order to To date. (Li et.. chemical recycling consists of pyrolysis process. and triboelectric separation (Meier et al.. Corona Electrostatic Electric Corona charge and differentiated discharge Metal / non metal 0. separators are almost exclusively used for waste Gravity concentration separates materials of different reclamation where they are particularly suited to specific gravity by their relative movement in handling the relatively coarse sized feeds. Diagram of CES. 1997) process. but also between metals and non-metals supplies an excellent on its size and shape. is forces. 1997). Pyrolysis degrades the organic 14 .Journal of Emerging Trends in Engineering and Applied Sciences (JETEAS) 3(1):12-18(ISSN: 2141-7016) density of the components is the basis of separation. 2. Eddy current Table 1: Typical electric conductivity-based separation techniques Processes Separation Principle of separation Sorting task Workable Criteria particle size range Eddy Current Electric Repulsive forces exerted in the electrically Non-ferrous metal / >5mm Separation conductivity and conductive particles due to the interaction non metal separation density between the alternative magnetic field and the Eddy Currents induces by the magnetic polyester polyethylene terephthalate (PET). 2). In practice.5mm Separation conductivity lead to different charges of particles and separation this to action of different forces. and spent potliner Fig. electrostatic separation has been mainly reduce the size effect and make the relative motion of utilized for the recovery of Cu and Al from chopped the particle specific gravity dependent. The refining of the products gases. electric wires and cables. and high throughput (Stahl typical electric conductivity-based separation and Beier. using corona charging. this view. Metal fraction can be Chemical recycling (Fig. Triboelectric separation makes it is possible to sort plastics depending on the Electric Conductivity-based Separation difference in their electric properties. corona electrostatic separation (Fig. The rotor- response to the force of gravity and one or more other type electrostatic separator.. (Zhang et. electronic scrap. resistivity). In their infancy.. large particles being affected condition for the successful implementation of a more than smaller ones. Triboelectric Dielectric constant Tribo-charge with different charges (+ or . biotechnological processes being still in useful chemicals by means of chemical reactions. and can be done with conventional refining Chemical Recycling methods in chemical plants. 2000).

. about behaviour of epoxy resins. The thermal scraps (25 cm2) was crushed and size classified. aid the residue of vacuum pyrolysis at 550 °C of bare PCB separation of the metal components. controller. systems. The combination of the removal and recovery occurrence and intensity of secondary reactions. (10) cooling tube. if the temperature and glass fibres from PCB scraps. A certain amount of bromine oil resulted contaminated by polluting element and contained in the waste turns into ashes (co- must be purged for further utilization. was carried out on recycling of the same mixed feeding PCB waste. (1) Metallurgical recovery of metals from WEEE is Nitrogen cylinder. hydrometallurgy and biotechnology (12) alkaline solution. Experimental apparatus for pyrolysis [17]. In thermogravimetry brominated recovered after calcinations. no significant influence of chemicals or even combusted in gas turbines for temperature was observed over 500 °C both in gases electric power production. bromine the different fractions could be easily separated (Hall can be recovered using suitable wet scrubbing and Williams. (2008) underlining three (7) quartz board. intended for bromine recovery and electric power production. Guan et al. (3) gas flow meter. (6) electric furnace. (Li et. reducing the PCBs. staged gasification was more efficient from an energy point of view. cell phones.700 °C. However the electric power as well.4 mm. fibres remained in the smaller particles were pyrolytic recycling. The size of the Gasification and Co-combustion PCB particles effects as well on the decomposition Gasification converts organic materials into carbon temperature. the pyrolysis process will melt the shorts organic vapour residence time in the reactor solder used to attach the electrical components to the and lowers decomposition temperature. The pyrolysed combustion) or char (gasification). They exhibit a refining (Long et al. however the pyrolysis (600 °C) was followed by centrifugal balance phenols/bisphenols and separation of the residue at 400°C in order to collect brominated/unbrominated species depends on the solder ready for reuse reported by Zhou and Quj.. PCB Recycling of the Metal Fraction Despite the fluctuant average scrap composition amongst the various WEEE. temperature and residence time in the reactor. The of the organic fraction of PCBs and solder. A comparative environmental analysis of these two competing scenarios. 2010). reviewed Cui and Zhang. While both processes resulted eco-efficient. degradation is postponed when particles monoxide and hydrogen (syngas) by reacting the raw are larger than 1 cm2 due to heat transfer limitation material at high temperatures with a controlled (Quan et al. Combustion or co- and oil yields (9% and 78% respectively) as well as combustion competes with gasification producing in the gross calorific value (30kJ/kg). (2008) reported. those hardened by aromatic amines and cm2) were proposed. the most common polymer 99% of original copper was confined in particles > in PCB. (2010). 2009). temperatures and longer times making debromination more extensive (Luda et al. 2009). Vacuum pyrolysis is high enough. 2007) 15 . Fig. 2007). has been widely investigated as a basis for 0. when amount of oxygen and/or steam.. (11) collecting flask. while most turns in a fixed bed reactor at 850°C were very friable and into combustion gases or into syngas where. metallic and glass fibre Application of vacuum pyrolysis was mostly aimed fractions of PCBs much easier and recycling of each to recover solder and facilitate separation of metals fraction more viable. of solder (240°C) was followed by vacuum pyrolysis Mostly brominated and unbrominated phenols and of the residue (600°C) in the second vacuum bisphenols are found in the pyrolysis oil. (5) quartz tube. in the first centrifugal separation anhydrides decomposing at higher temperature. (8) thermocouple. and (13) gas bag. therefore a matter of relevance and has been recently (4) drying tube. making the process of Vacuum Pyrolysis separating the (9) temperature possible approaches: pyrometallurgy. Additionally. 4. syngas is itself a fuel PCBs (4 cm2) were pyrolyzed in a tubular type oven or can be used as intermediates for producing in the range 300 . calculators and PCB scraps reveal that more than 70% of their value depends on their high content in metals. higher (2010) and Zhou et al. had a potentially smaller environmental impact than co-combustion and allowed a more efficient collection of bromine (Bientinesi and Petarca.Journal of Emerging Trends in Engineering and Applied Sciences (JETEAS) 3(1):12-18(ISSN: 2141-7016) part of the PBC wastes. Pyrolysis oil and gases epoxy resins are less thermally stable than the were collected from pyrolysis reactor for further corresponding unbrominated ones. 2007).. Two different steep weight loss stage at 300-380°C depending on arrangement for recycling disassembled PCBs (10-15 the hardener. (2) air pump.

2005). copper could be are then subjected to separation and purification efficiently solubilised from waste PCBs in about 5 procedures such as precipitation of impurities. oxidation by ferric ions generated from ferrous ion Consequently.. Energy cost is reduced by medium.. proposed. Pb and Sn from PCB scraps contents are quite different in the two systems. the resulting slag was The remaining solid residue after copper removal was shown to be very effective in cleaning the pyrolysis then leached with hydrochloric acid to remove Sn and gas. for of metals from electronic wastes but it has been electronic wastes leaching involve acid and/or halide demonstrated that using C. Ag and Au recovery could be Pb. Despite. higher abrasion resistance and were cheaper processing of electronic waste suffers from some (Liu et al. Further. in the feeding. Recently a modified acids and treated in an electrochemical process in pyrometallurgy to recover metals from PCBs has order to recover the metals separately (Veit et al. gold can be treatment due to the fact that acid leaching is a microbially solubilized from PCB (Faramarzi et al. general electronic processing which concentrate metals. The solutions natural acid mine drainage. precipitation with NaCl recovered materials are retreated or purified by using was preferred to recuperate silver from the sulfate chemical processing. To recover the metals phase together with some metal oxides. a two-step process was necessary 16 . but had higher elastic metals from PCB. Furthermore pyrometallurgy results in a transport them into the cell for various intracellular limited upgrading of the metal value and functions. The last residue was used as a filler in PVC achieved in this process. 2010) showing that 2006). and the refractory oxides form a slag small amount of the copper. Microbes unless special installations and measures are present have the ability to bind metal ions present in the and precious metals are obtained at the very end of external environment at the cell surface or to the process. Traditionally. an oxidative the pyrometallurgy processing the crushed PCBs chloride leach dissolves palladium and copper. from each leaching solution. and scraps are burned in a furnace or in a molten bath to cyanidation recovers the gold. A bench-scale provide alternatives for recovery of metals from extraction study was carried out on the applicability electronic waste. the copper carbonate allow noble metals to enter the metal phase to the residue was converted to copper oxide by heating.. pyrometallurgical modulus. However. The extraction of copper solvent extraction. Eventually Cu. greatest extent. violaceum. equipment has been performed by a mechanical Despite differences in the plants.Journal of Emerging Trends in Engineering and Applied Sciences (JETEAS) 3(1):12-18(ISSN: 2141-7016) Pyrometallurgy electrorefining process. the solutions are treated by oxidation bacteria. This interaction could promote selective or hydrometallurgical techniques and/or electrochemical non-selective in recovery of metals. and gold. feasible approach for removing of base metals so as 2004) and using bacterial consortium enriched from to free the surface of precious metals. palladium was extracted from the chloride combustion of plastics and other flammable materials solution by cementation on aluminum. After favour the separation of Cu from other metals and the solution was distilled. silver. however. for recovery of metals. At the second scraps are treated together with other metal scraps by stage. First the crushed PCB scraps were leached the remaining slag in the blowing step was found to in the NH3/NH5CO3 solution to dissolve copper.. confirming preliminarily the plastics which were found to have the same tensile feasibility of modified pyrometallurgy in recovering strength as unfilled plastics. Bioleaching has been successfully applied for recovery of precious metals Hydrometallurgy and copper from ores for many years. adsorption and ion-exchange to was mainly accomplished indirectly through isolate and concentrate the metals of interest. palladium and a remove plastics. In dissolves copper and part of the silver. the concentrated fraction was dissolved with pyrometallurgical processes. limits in particular the recover as metals of aluminum and iron transferred into the slag is difficult. pyrometallurgical of hydrometallurgical processing routes to recover technology has been used for recovery of precious precious metals from PCBs in mobile phones (Quinet metals from PCB to upgrade mechanical separation et al. days (Xiang et al. Leaching is the process of extracting a soluble limited researches were carried out on the bioleaching constituent from a solid by means of a solvent. Additionally. Recently a general approach for recycling of addition of NaOH as slag-formation material scrapped PBC by hydrometallurgy has been promotes the effective separation of metals from slag. An oxidative sulfuric acid leach which cannot efficiently recover precious metals. chemical reduction. the Biometallurgy presence of brominated flame retardants in the Biotechnology is one of the most promising smelter feed can lead to the formation of dioxins technologies in metallurgical processing. Bioleaching and processing are subsequently necessary to make biosorption are the two main areas of biometallurgy refining. It should be stated. 2009). that silver and palladium were recovered from the cyanide applying results from the field of mineral processing solution by adsorption on activated carbon to the treatment of electronic waste has limitations because the size of particles involved and material Recovery of Cu. or Some techniques used in mineral processing could crystallization for metal recover. 2010).. been proposed (Zhou et al..

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