Scientists at the University of York hope to bring us a step closer to managing and recycling waste liquid crystal displays (LCDs) commonly found in wide screen televisions, mobile phones and calculators. At present there are not thought to be viable recovery techniques or fully safe disposal options for this type of waste.
Researchers from the Department of Chemistry at the university have developed a method of extracting the potentially hazardous waste liquid crystals from displays. And following a feasibility study, they have won a Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) competition to investigate ways of extracting and recycling liquid crystals from waste LCD devices.
The £1.7 million project will receive 50% funding from the DTI, with the remainder coming from industry.
University of York project leader Dr Avtar Matharu said: The amount of LCD waste is increasing at an alarming rate and with disposal in landfill or incineration no longer acceptable, new solutions were needed. We have developed a technology that offers a clean, efficient way to recover the mixture of liquid crystals from waste LCD devices. Once recovered, the liquid crystal mixture will be recycled in to different LCDs or the mixture will be separated into individual components for re-sale.
He told MRW that the three-year project aims to culminate with the setting up of a recycling plant for the waste stream. Sales of LCD television sets are estimated to be about 100 million by 2009 and about five to six tonnes of liquid crystal waste is estimated to be generated over the next few years, growing at a rate of about 25-28% every five years.
The potential is enormous. Its the fastest growing waste in the EU, Matharu said.
The university scientists are part of a consortium of nine partners including C-Tech Innovation, aXr, NIS, Active Dissembly Research, Glass Technology Services, Botanix, Engelhard Sales and Sims Group UK.
As well as recycling the waste aXr will look at whether the LCDs can be repackaged into new uses, such as thermostat displays, if they are still in working order.
LCD screens are usually composed of two glass sheets with a thin film of viscous liquid crystal material between them. This can be composed of anywhere between 15-20 different compounds, of varying value.