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Flexible circuit board separates in recycling solution

Scientist holds a beaker with solution in a lab.

Research into a self-healable, recyclable PCB material was published in Science Advances. | totojang1977/Shutterstock

Researchers at the University of Colorado have developed a thin circuit board material, designed for wearable devices, that’s easy to recycle at its end of life.

The University of Colorado Boulder this month wrote about the work, describing the flexible circuit board as a “fully-recyclable circuit board that’s inspired by, and sticks onto, human skin.”

The film is made from polyimine, which the university describes as a “highly flexible and self-healing material.”

The researchers expanded on the material’s recyclability in their Nov. 6 research article in Science Advances, titled “Heterogeneous integration of rigid, soft, and liquid materials for self-healable, recyclable, and reconfigurable wearable electronics.

“When the device is severely damaged or not needed, it can be fully recycled by soaking in the recycling solution,” the paper states.

When the polyimine is broken down by the solution, the electronic components of the chip “can be easily separated from the solution,” the paper adds. “The polymer solution and the electrical components can be reused for making new devices.”

Similar technology has been explored in previous studies, such as a 2017 research project looking into using a flexible, biodegradable polymer as a circuit board material.

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