Submitted: The Two Sides Team January 28, 2013
The world’s love affair with gadgetsmany of which contain hazardous materialsis generating millions of tons of electronic waste annually.
January 25 2013
by Emil Venere, R&D Mag
The world’s love affair with gadgetsmany of which contain hazardous
materialsis generating millions of tons of electronic waste annually.
Purdue and Tuskegee universities are leading an international effort to
replace conventional electronics with more sustainable technologies and
train a workforce of specialists to make the transition possible.
rapid, global proliferation of smart phones, laptops, tablets and other
electronic devices has connected the world in positive ways, but the
electronic waste isliterallypiling up,” said Carol Handwerker,
Purdue’s Reinhardt Schuhmann Jr. Professor of Materials Engineering. “We
want to create materials that will allow computer components to be
disassembled, recycled and reused. There is a growing realization that
the traditional, linear model of consumption’design it, build it, use
it, throw it away’has long ceased being viable for electronics. That is
why we proposed this innovative, integrative global education and
research program to educate and train a Ph.D. workforce with an
unprecedented capacity for analyzing complex dynamic systems.”
new Global Traineeship in Sustainable Electronics is funded with a
five-year, $3.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Handwerker is leading the project with four co-principal investigators,
including Mahesh Hosur, a professor of materials science and engineering
The three other co-principal investigators are Inez
Hua, associate director of Purdue’s Global Engineering Program and a
professor of civil engineering; Karthik Ramani, the Donald W. Feddersen
Professor of Mechanical Engineering; and Ananth Iyer, associate dean for
graduate programs and Purdue’s Susan Bulkeley Butler Chair in
Operations Management at the Krannert School of Management.
are working closely with the International Electronics Manufacturing
Initiative (iNEMI), a consortium of electronics manufacturers,
suppliers, associations, government agencies and universities.
collaboration will enable doctoral students and faculty to take a
global supply chain perspective that integrates engineering issues and
business realities and enhances research effectiveness,” Iyer said.
“Being linked to industry leaders and to research experts will offer us
an opportunity to understand business challenges and provide impactful
Working with industry is vital to the program’s success, said Bill Bader, CEO of iNEMI.
the same time, programs like these are critical to industry,” he said.
“Industrial research has consistently decreased over the past two
decades, making it important for industry to aggressively encourage and
support academic research programs such as this one that focus on
innovation to meet technology needs.”
The workforce should
include specialists in many disciplines, from engineering and science to
economics, anthropology, management, and political science.
not just an engineering problem, it’s not just a technology problem,”
Handwerker said. “It involves people’s behavior, dynamics of social
systems, industrial systems, legislation and regulation. We will bring
together all of these disciplines and people to address the complex set
of issues related to sustainable electronics.”
More than 3
million tons of e-waste were generated in 2007 in the United States,
with 13.6 percent collected for recycling and 86.4% going to landfills
and incinerators. Electronic products contain hazardous materials such
as heavy metals and brominated flame retardants. The materials can leach
out of landfills into groundwater or be converted into “super toxins”
including dioxin while being incinerated. Environmental concerns have
led 25 states to pass laws mandating e-waste recycling.
many states have laws prohibiting disposal of electronic waste in
landfills, the waste is incinerated or shipped to developing countries,”
said Fu Zhao, an assistant professor in Purdue’s School of Mechanical
Engineering and Division of Environmental and Ecological Engineering.
“Neither scenario is good from a sustainability perspective.
Incineration is expensive, and materials and energy are wasted.
Exporting e-waste to developing countries damages local environments,
harms people’s health and is against environmental justice.”
will work to develop “nanocomposites” made of natural materials for
structural applications in casings and circuit boards. Another thrust
will be to create lignin and soy-based resins for circuit board
construction to replace petroleum-based resins.
derived and plentiful, these materials may offer an opportunity for
low-cost, non-fossil-fuel-derived materials for high performance
structural applications. Whether they are more environmentally benign
than alternatives will depend on their life cycle environmental costs.
This is truly a case where ‘the devil is in the details,’ ” Handwerker
Other goals include development of adhesives from marine
organisms for the construction and disassembly of electronics and green
replacements for brominated flame retardants.
The program is expected to continue as a long-term Purdue-Tuskagee collaboration.
foresee a future of increasing collaboration on many fronts, Hosur
said. “We are developing a curriculum, and we need to expand our
research base on both campuses. The grant has strengthened the
two-decade-long relationship that Tuskegee has had with Purdue in
advanced materials through NSF and the U.S. Department of Defense.”
first course, design for global sustainability, is being offered this
semester at Purdue and Tuskegee, with graduate students from management,
engineering and political science enrolled, she said.
program will involve university partners in Germany, Colombia, China and
India, connected through globalHUB, a Web site for international
collaboration based on Purdue’s HUBzero software. Seven Purdue graduate
students and three Tuskegee students are involved, with a total of 28
two-year fellowships funded over the five-year program.
Source: Purdue University
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