Applications

E-waste recycling

The shock wave technology enables a highly selective separation of electrical or electronic devices at their mechanical weak points, thus enabling selective disassembly into individual components. Disassembling complex assemblies creates new recycling options for the separated materials and detached electronic parts.

ImpulsTec’s fragmentation systems can be used for disassembly of complex devices such as mobile phones and laptops into components, for detaching of electronic components from printed circuit boards and the separation of components such as processors and tantalum capacitors into their different materials.

The homogeneous energy input of the shock wave process into the device leads to the break up of the assemblies at their mechanical weak points, which are typically joints and interfaces between different materials. This allows electronic equipment to be almost perfectly separated into their main components, such as frame parts, printed circuit boards, and other plastic or metal pieces.

The cell phone is disassembled at the joints and separated into main components such as (housing, circuit board, etc.) after just a few seconds of shock wave treatment.

The cell phone is disassembled at the joints and separated into main components such as (housing, circuit board, etc.) after just a few seconds of shock wave treatment.

High purity fragmentation

The low-contamination shock wave fragmentation process is suitable for processes with high purity requirements. Due to the use of acoustic shock waves and the low level of contact compared to conventional fragmentation methods, metal contamination is kept to a minimum (<10 ppm) during the treatment process.

Due to the use of electrically generated shock waves, the shock wave fragmentation does not result in any form of direct mechanical interaction with the target materials, as in classical fragmentation methods, so that one can speak of a non-contact milling process. No contact with a solid state grinding body means there is also no increased wear during the processing of hard, abrasive materials. This makes it possible to efficiently process hard, abrasive materials without facing the problem of high wear. The shock wave method used by ImpulsTec generates comparatively few impurities due to erosion on the electrodes. In recent years, several different research projects allowed a significant amount of expertise to be gained in the low-contamination fragmentation of semiconductor materials and the processing of high-purity ceramics as well as glass products.

The high-purity fragmentation of ceramic monoliths and various glass products can be mentioned here as an example. The low-contamination shock wave process can be used to obtain high-purity reusable material fractions.

Reinstaufschluss eines Keramik-Monolithen
High purity treatment of a ceramic monolith

Application benefits

  • Non-contact fragmentation process

  • Efficient fragmentation of hard and abrasive materials

  • processing of materials with high purity standards

  • content of metal contamination <10 ppm can be achieved (depending on the required particle size)

  • High purity treatment of a ceramic monolith

  • Recovery of a high-purity glass fraction from solar modules

Rückgewinnung einer hochreinen Glasfraktion von Solarmodulen
Recovery of a high-purity glass fraction from solar modules

Slags

Shock wave technology can be used for a selective treatment of different metallurgical slags. Separating and concentrating the valuable materials from multi-phase systems like metal slags allows an easier further processing of these materials and for a better economic and ecological recycling.
By generating high-voltage discharges under water, the fragmenting effect can be specifically directed to hit the material interfaces and focus on the transitions between the mineralogical phases of the slag.
The schock wave process enables the parameters to be specifically adapted to the material composition and the specific requirements of the respective materials. As a result, contaminants stored in slag can be exposed and then easily separated, which results in a variety of new approaches in the metallurgical post-processing and the economic utilization of the materials. The procedure allows the process parameters to be adapted to the composition and specific requirements of each material. As a result, impurities embedded in slag can be exposed and then easily separated, which results in a variety of new approaches in the metallurgical post-processing and the economic utilization of the materials.
This innovative processing approach is particularly suitable for metallurgical intermediates from iron, zinc and steel refining metallurgy.

Application benefits

  • Efficient fragmentation of hard and abrasive materials
  • High phase selectivity improves hydrometallurgical processing
  • Separation of impurities for improved pyrometallurgical post-processing
  • Easier material sorting after shock wave fragmentation
Schlacke Typ 1
Slag type 1
Schlacke Typ 2
Slag type 2

Composites

A promising area of application for the shock wave process is the recycling of composite materials and composites such as photovoltaic modules or carbon fiber reinforced plastics. In addition to the separation of the materials into their pure individual components, ImpulsTec’s selective fragmentation technology offers even more efficient possibilities of recycling, namely the “functional recycling”. The latter indicates a shift from a pure element/material driven recycling towards a removal of intact composites and complete substructures that are reused in the original application or production process.
The selectivity achievable with the shock wave fragmentation process depends on the mechanical and acoustic properties of the composite materials. The fact that each material can be non-destructively recovered allows new recycling approaches to be imagined, away from a pure material recycling towards a functional recycling.
One possible application of the shock wave process is the recycling of solar modules, allowing both the semiconductor material and the high-quality front glass to be recovered while meeting the high purity requirements associated with these materials.
The shock wave fragmentation from ImpulsTec is ideally suited for detaching thin coatings from substrates. Depending on the mechanical integrity of their materials, some substrates will remain largely structurally intact, while others will also be fragmented. The minimum thickness of the detachable layer depends on the combination of materials and the physical properties of the objects to which they are bound. In several research and customer projects it was possible to detach layer thicknesses down to less than 10 µm using the shock wave method.

Application benefits

  • Disassembly of complex industrial materials into individual components
  • More efficient recycling opportunities by recovering valuable materials
  • Access to previously unused raw material potential (production waste)
  • Feeding back of materials to the production processes (inline recycling)
Trennung von Frontglass und Rückseitenglas eines Solarmoduls
Separation of front glass and back glass of a solar module
Abgetrenntes Frontglass eines Solarmoduls
Detached front glass of a solar module

Li-Ion batteries

The shock wave fragmentation process marketed by ImpulsTec can also be used to treat devices containing hazardous industrial materials into their individual components, so that the valuable substances can be separated from the hazardous parts and recovered. This suggests a variety of possible applications of shock wave technology to improve the efficiency of existing processes or develop entirely new recycling approaches.
Since the process is conducted within a fluid fragmentation medium, Li-ion battery cells for example can be safely dismantled, which also offers the possibility of functional recycling of the recovered active material as well as material based recycling of the components. Furthermore, the shock wave process can also be used for the gentle disassembly of assemblies containing hazardous substances, in order to subsequently enable a separating processing of hazardous and non-hazardous components.

Cell phone battery opened by shock wave treatment

  • Passivation of hazardous substances in the fragmentation medium
  • Safe dismantling of hazardous industrial materials
  • Efficient recycling options for separated individual components
  • Removal of hazardous substances from devices and components
Mittels Schockwellenbehandlung geöffnete Handybatterie
Cell phone battery opened by shock wave treatment

Mining and building materials

Due to its specific separation mechanism, the shock wave process, which provokes fractures on the crystallographic level at the interfaces of different materials, is particularly suitable for processing intermediate mining products and for crushing rock, minerals or slags with valuable ingredients.

The specific separation mechanism of shock wave technology has a particularly positive effect on rock processing, which provokes material fractures, preferably at the interfaces of materials with different acoustic properties. The selectivity of the fragmentation process on crystallographic (foreign) phases enables the efficient disintegration of different microstructures.

The process offers great potential for processing valuable mining products and minerals. Shock wave fragmentation technology is able to recover and concentrate the valuable materials contained in rocks. This technology could potentially improve the efficiency of conventional processing methods in future. Over the last few years the shock wave fragmentation process extended to industrial scale. We are continually expanding the scale of the technology and developing customer-specific solutions in collaboration with an expert network of national and international partners from every field.

Application benefits

  • Material-selective fragmentation of multiphase systems
  • Recovery and concentration of valuable materials
  • Increased efficiency for subsequent chemical or hydrometallurgical processes
Schockwellenzerkleinerung von Bergbauprodukten
Shock wave crushing of mining products
ImpulsTec GmbH
  • ImpulsTec GmbH
    Wilhelm-Eichler-Straße 34
    01445 Radebeul

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