Research project launched to recover Gallium from waste LED lamps

  • Objective is to investigate feasibility of recovering Gallium from waste LED lamps
  • LED chips separated, and then subject to ionic solvents
  • Nine month project funded by Innovate UK
  • Recolight are one of six partners

Research project launched to recover Gallium from waste LED lamps

A consortium of six companies and institutions has been formed to research practical methods of recovering gallium when LED lamps are recycled.

The consortium comprises Recolight, HSSMI, S2S Electronics, Envaqua, E.C. Williams, and the Institute of Material Finishing (IMF).  The project, named Recovery of Gallium Ionic Liquid (or ReGAIL) is partly financed by Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency.

When waste LED lamps are recycled, there is no recovery of the gallium or gallium nitride they contain.  By advancing existing gallium recycling methods and applying them to end-of-life LED lamps, the project seeks to establish a circular supply chain for gallium in the UK. This will reduce the need for extracting raw gallium, and increase the UK’s supply chain resilience and dependency on new resources.  The project should also introduce innovative solvent technologies into recycling and develop improved recovery processes with higher performance, safety, and environmental sustainability standards.

Welcoming the news, Recolight CEO Nigel Harvey said “Currently, LED lamps only account for around 2% of the total tonnage of waste lamps collected in the UK.  But this will rise significantly over the coming decade.  That means timing of the ReGAIL is just right, giving us the opportunity to develop new methods to recover waste gallium before waste LEDs start to arise in large quantities.”

Gallium is expected to replace silicon in critical power system semiconductors in the near future due to gallium’s comparatively superior characteristics including lower heat loss, and smaller space requirements.

Due to a lack of natural sources of gallium in the UK, it is vital to identify ways of capturing gallium through improved recycling. Alternatively, as the demand for gallium increases, the UK would need to resort to importing gallium from abroad. The ReGAIL project therefore creates a potential competitive advantage for the UK, by using waste LED lamps as a source of gallium.

The ReGAIL partners

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About Recolight

Recolight is the leading UK WEEE compliance scheme for the lighting industry, taking on responsibility for its members’ WEEE compliance, giving their customers access to the UK’s most comprehensive free lamp collection and recycling service, and helping to ensure that as many lamps as possible are kept out of landfill.

Recolight’s comprehensive offering makes it the preferred WEEE scheme for the lighting industry, setting the standard for the sector. It is the only WEEE compliance scheme in the UK to provide integrated Lamp and Luminaire collection and recycling. It has the biggest UK-wide network of collection points for all WEEE lighting. As a result, since its founding in 2007, Recolight has funded the recycling of over 333 million lamps, LEDs and luminaires, more than all other UK WEEE schemes put together.

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