Recovery of tantalum from printed circuit boards: An overview of the IRETA project
Due to its properties, tantalum is a metal with versatile applications. Especially in its main application as a component of tantalum capacitors in electronics, the recycling rate for end-of-life products is still below one percent. The IRETA project has therefore developed new ways of recovering tantalum from printed circuit boards. Automated optical recognition identifies the components and then removes them from the printed circuit board using laser technology. The epoxy resin is separated from the tantalum anodes by cryogenic processing and density separation. A large part of the silver contained in the capacitors is thereby also extracted from the tantalum and can be recovered. Furthermore, three methods - based on leaching, electrochemistry and chemical transport - have been developed for further concentration of tantalum. Economic and ecological assessment show that the electrochemical method is the most sustainable of the three.