Every few months some new gadget comes along that’s faster, offers better battery life, or finds another way to make the phone, tablet, or PC sitting on your desk look boring. While it’s pretty nifty to watch technology advance at a rapid pace, it’s also pretty sad to see the amount of old gadgets that turn into e-waste because it’s too difficult to re-use the components.
But researchers at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK may have a solution: a printed circuit board that can be easily disassembled so that individual resistors and other components can be used to build new products.
The project is called ReUSE, which stands for Recyclable, Unzippable, Sustainable Electronics.
Here’s how it works: The circuit board is features a sturdy design for use in a range of environments. But when you want to disassemble the board, just dip it in hot water and let it steep for a few moments like a cup of tea.
When you’re done, you should be able to remove the board from the water and easily remove the components. According to the NPL, about 2 percent of a traditional printed circuit board can be re-used, but 90 percent of the ReUSE board can be, well… re-used.
This is just a prototype and it could be a while before we start to see any real world products built using this sort of design. But at a time when product life cycles seem to be getting shorter and shorter, it’s nice to know that one day the internal components might be able to find new homes and new uses.