High temperature pyrolysis investigations were carried out on waste printed circuit boards (PCBs) in the temperature range 800–1000 °C under inert conditions, with an aim to determine optimal operating conditions for the recovery of copper. Pyrolysis residues were characterized using ICP-OES analysis, SEM/EDS and XRD investigations. Copper foils were successfully recovered after pyrolysis at 800 °C for 10–20 min; the levels of Pb and Sn present were found to be quite low and these were generally present near the foil edges. The relative proportions of Pb and Sn became progressively higher at longer heating times due to enhanced diffusion of these molten metals in solid copper. While a similar behaviour was observed at 900 °C, the pyrolysis at 1000 °C resulted in copper forming Cu-Sn-Pb alloys; copper foils could no longer be recovered. Optimal conditions were identified for the direct recovery of copper from waste PCBs with minimal processing. This approach is expected to make significant contributions towards enhancing material recovery, process efficiency and the environmental sustainability of recycling e-waste. Pyrolysis at lower temperatures, short heating times, coupled with reductions in process steps are expected to significantly reduce energy consumption and pollution associated with the handling and processing of waste PCBs.
- Copper recovery
- Energy efficiency
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Waste Management and Disposal