Tantalum is a rare, ductile, graphite-grey, lustrous transition metal. Approximately 60% of the world's tantalum production is used for the manufacture of high performance electrolytic capacitors, which are used in particular in applications where large capacitances are required with small dimensions. Examples include miniaturized power supplies and high power density switching regulators found on PC motherboards, mobile phones and laptops.
Despite its high price of approx. 400 US$/kg (99.8%), the overall recycling rate of tantalum is low. Recycling on a significant scale currently only takes place in the area of production waste. In the area of consumer waste, the recycling rate is currently estimated to be below 1%.
ELPRO Elektronik-Produkt Recycling GmbH has addressed this problem and, in investigations carried out in cooperation with the Institute for Processing, Landfill Technology and Geomechanics (IFAD), has developed a process route to produce tantalum concentrates by means of targeted pre-sorting of assemblies and adapted mechanical processing in combination with thermal pre-treatment. With this process it was possible to produce a tantalum concentrate with 21% tantalum from 1.5t laptops with a yield of approx. 50%.
Up to now, however, the individual process steps have not yet been optimally matched to one another, resulting in avoidable tantalum losses in several process stages. The aim of the project is therefore to improve the process chain by optimally coordinating the individual process steps with each other so that a tantalum yield of at least 75% is achieved. Based on the results, a pilot plant will be planned and installed at ELPRO.
- ELPRO Elektronik-Produkt Recycling GmbH, Brunswick
- TU Clausthal, Institute for Processing, Landfill Technology and Geomechanics
Subsidy code: KF2559903KO4