After plenty of stories about electronics that are moving away from ease of disassembly (ahem, Apple), it's refreshing to hear one where the outcome could dramatically improve the ability the disassemble and recycle electronic hardware at the end of a device's life.
Researchers at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have developed a printed circuit board that falls apart when submerged in hot water. The circuit board's electronic components like resistors, capacitors and integrated circuits can merely be scraped off intact, which means there is no necessary delay between the recovery and the reuse of the parts.
As part of Britain’s ReUSE (Reuseable, Unzippable, Sustainable Electronics) project, the circuit board is made of "unzippable polymeric layers" that can stand up to the daily damp heat stress and thermal cycling of a working device, but won't come apart until submerged in hot water at the end of its usable life. One of the best parts about this invention is that the material can be used in flat circuit boards as well as flexible and 3D configurations.
Gizmag reports how remarkable this improvement really is, "In lab tests, it was found that 90 percent of the original circuit board components could be salvaged. By contrast, according to NPL, just two percent of the material in existing circuit boards can be re-used."
To see this unzippable circuit board in action, watch the video below.