Tech & Science

NUS Engineers Develop Eco-Friendly Technique to Upcycle Metal Waste into Multi-Purpose Aerogels

Metals are one of the most widely used materials in the world - they are used in cookware, tools, electric appliances, electric wires, computer chips, jewelry and so on.

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With the growing demand for metal products, it is crucial to promote sustainable and environmentally-friendly methods of recycling metal waste to help reduce the environmental impact of using metals in the economy.

The conventional approaches for recycling metal waste are energy intensive and some of these methods also generate environmentally harmful by-products, such as ammonia and methane during aluminium recycling.

To address this challenge, a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has demonstrated a new eco-friendly technique to convert aluminium and magnesium waste into high-value, multi-functional aerogels. This upcycling method could be applied to all types of metal waste in power form, such as metal chips and electronic waste.

“Our approach is cheaper, does not produce any hazardous waste, consumes less energy and is more environmentally-friendly than conventional recycling methods for metal waste. The metal-based aerogels created using our unique fabrication technique have high thermal and mechanical stability. Hence, they are promising candidates for heat and sound insulation in harsh environments with high temperature or high mechanical impact. We are also exploring new uses for such aerogels, such as biomedical applications,” explained research team leader Associate Professor Duong Hai-Minh, who is from the NUS Department of Mechanical Engineering.

This latest technological breakthrough achieved by Assoc Prof Duong and his team builds upon their earlier successes in developing aerogels using different types of waste such as plastics, textiles, paper, pineapple leaves and other types of food and agricultural waste.

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