Four R&D projects that will help the UK to develop new lightweight materials, design products to have a longer life and be more easily recyclable, and clean contaminated land to reclaim valuable metals, have been unveiled.
Awarded just over £5 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the projects aim to address the UK's limited resources and high material dependency. They will be run from four universities: Bath, Birmingham, Loughborough and Warwick.
The projects include CLEVER - Closed Loop Emotionally Valuable E-waste Recovery - which will look at how materials and product service systems for rapidly replaced portable electronic devices can be developed to optimise recovery and reuse of components. The project is being led by the University of Bath - in collaboration with Loughborough University, Newcastle University, University of Surrey and the University of Oxford.
Dr Janet Scott, from the University of Bath said: "The problem our 'CLEVER' consortium aims to tackle is a significant one in terms of resource efficiency and is symptomatic of some of the problems that rapid turnover in items such as consumer electronics bring - if consumers wanted to keep the attractive parts of their devices, while getting "updates" for functional hardware inside, we would have a mechanism for closing the loop on the scarce and valuable metals that these contain".
Another project, EXHUME - Efficient X-sector use of HeterogeneoUs MatErials in Manufacturing, will address the challenge of recycling composite materials. The project will demonstrate re-manufacturing science and chemical/process engineering to the waste industry. It will develop the data sets and exemplars of mixed composite processing and resource footprints that can be used to drive the future of scrap re-use across different industrial sectors.
It is being led by Dr Gary Leeke from the University of Birmingham. "The increased use of composites, for example carbon fibre, automatically leads to large amounts of waste, which either goes to landfill or incineration. These have financial and environmental costs as well as preventing material re-use,” says Leeke. 2Our research is exciting as it is expected to begin a step-change in resource efficiency. The team will develop novel recycling processes and a systems approach to remanufacture composite scrap material for cross-sector applications in aerospace, automotive, marine and construction industries".
The two other projects include Cleaning Land for Wealth (CL4W) which will investigate processes for removing poisons such as arsenic and platinum from contaminated land and water courses, and CORE (Creative Outreach for Resource Efficiency), which aims to build bridges between scientists, engineers and the public, communicating the topic of resource efficiency.