Recycling in Real Time
The recovery of raw materials from secondary sources plays a decisive role in sustainable recycling management. But the complex structure of technical equipment makes recycling difficult. Scientists are researching new processes for resource-efficient recycling.
One of the keys to a sustainable future for human society will be the use of existing resources. In this context, an important challenge and at the same time a promising field of innovation is the efficient handling of complexly composed raw materials that are produced during reprocessing: secondary raw materials. Scientists around Dr. Richard Gloaguen and Dr. Axel Renno from the Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology (HIF) are researching processes for resource-efficient recycling and are developing plants to implement and realize them.
"In this way, the proportion of raw materials from secondary sources available for new products is to be significantly increased and the so-called downcycling, that is the reduction in quality, of metallic and mineral raw materials prevented," says Dr. Jens Gutzmer, Director of the HIF. "Recovery from complex material composites is currently not possible with the available technologies or does not make sense from an economic point of view. The approach developed by the HIF is intended to enable the resource-efficient preparation and processing of secondary raw materials at a completely different level".
With a funding of 3.8 million euros from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Free State of Saxony, the researchers can now begin to transfer the results achieved so far on a laboratory scale to the demonstration scale, that is to a dimension with additional instruments and long-term observation. For this purpose, the experimental facility developed with the Freiberg University of Mining and Technology and external partners will be set up at the HIF by the middle of next year and brought to the test phase.
"The main component of the demonstrator is an interacting multi-sensor/camera system with which we want to gain new insights into complex material flows consisting of metals, plastics and ceramics in real time. For this purpose, we will use sensors and cameras for imaging developed in national and international collaborations to characterize the material flow qualitatively and quantitatively," explains Gloaguen, head of the Exploration Department at HIF. The optical sensors allow non-destructive analysis and extremely fast imaging.