Project formed to recover gallium from lamps

Lighting industry WEEE compliance scheme Recolight has formed a consortium with five others to research practical methods of recovering gallium when LED lamps are recycled.

Gallium is a metal found in many LED lights

The consortium comprises of Recolight, HSSMI, S2S Electronics, Envaqua, E.C. Williams, and the Institute of Material Finishing.

The project, named Recovery of Gallium Ionic Liquid (or ReGAIL) is partly financed by Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency.

Currently there is no recovery of the gallium of gallium nitride when LED lamps are recycled, the consortium said, and the project aims to establish a “circular supply chain” for the metal.

This will “reduce the need for extracting raw gallium, and increase the UK’s supply chain resilience and dependency on new resources,” the consortium added.

Gallium is a type of metal found in many LED lights which helps them to shine brighter.

Significant rise

Welcoming the news, Recolight chief executive 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.

“LED lamps only account for 2% of waste lamps collected in the UK, but this will rise significantly”

Nigel Harvey, Recolight

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.”

A statement from the consortium added that Gallium is expected to replace silicon in critical power system semiconductors in the near future due to its comparatively superior characteristics including lower heat loss, and smaller space requirements.

Recycling

Due to a lack of natural sources of gallium in the UK, it says 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”, ReGAIL explained,  by using waste LED lamps as a source of gallium.

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