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New technology to help clear mountain of LCDs

A partnership of researchers, recyclers and engineers have united their expertise to solve what they describe as Europe’s ‘LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) stockpiling issue’.

The ALR3000TM machine processes 60 LCD screens per hour and is modular for scalability. A commercial full-scale unit has been developed across a three-year Eco-innovation project called ReVolv, by a consortium led by Ireland based Votechnik and the University of Limerick.

Slow process

LCDs contain hazardous substances and are currently largely disassembled manually, making the process slow and expensive and resulting in the stockpiling of LCD screens at recycling plants across Europe. LCDs are subject to an EU Directive that stipulates that the mercury and liquid crystals must be removed, so it is essential that they are treated correctly.

Globally, some 217 million LCD sets were sold up to the end of 2013. These have an expected lifespan of around eight years which means these products are now in the waste stream and requiring treatment.

A helping hand

LCD TVs and monitors have a complex internal structure; consisting of a casing, base stand, cables, liquid crystal panel and electronic components. The liquid crystal panel itself comprises two glass plates with the liquid crystals contained inside. This structure has previously made manual disassembly the only solution but the introduction of the ALR3000TM to the market is set to change this and make LCD recycling economically viable.

Removing hazardous substances

The machine quickly and safely removes components containing hazardous substances from the LCDs, such as mercury containing lamps, and presents the separate fractions of the non-hazardous materials ready for recycling. These materials include in-demand critical raw materials like indium and other valuable materials, for instance the plastics contained in the screens.

ReVolv has developed all the necessary technical instructions and specifications for operating and manufacturing the ALR3000TM. Based on users’ requirements and a thorough analysis of the market, the legal framework and the environmental impact, a business and exploitation plan has been developed.

Thoroughly tested

‘This new technology has been the result of three years of focussed work and collaboration,’ comments project leader Dr. Lisa O’Donoghue of Votechnik. ‘The machine has been thoroughly tested during this development phase and has been found to perform extremely well in all conditions. We are now talking with recyclers that are wanting to seize the opportunity presented by the mountain of waste LCDs and hope to see a number of ALR3000TM in operation by the end of the year,’ she adds.

The technology is currently being demonstrated in Ireland and is available for potential customers to see in action.

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