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Brief Published: 3 Dec 2012

Water-Dissolvable Circuit Boards


The UK’s National Physical Laboratory has designed a 3D-printed circuit board made with layers of water-soluble polymers that dissolve when immersed in hot water.

The device was created as part of the UK’s ReUse project, which aims to increase the recyclability and sustainability of electronic products. The National Physical Laboratory partnered with Gwent Electronic Materials and technology firm In2Tec to craft the printed circuit board.

The safe disposal of electronic waste is an ongoing issue in the UK and around the world. Electronic waste can result in the release of hazardous materials such as lead, copper, chromium, lithium and silver. A recent study by the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry found that 85% of all printed circuit board (PCB) scraps ends up in landfills, amounting to approximately 1 million tons of PCB waste each year in the UK alone. Worldwide, the United Nations Environmental Program estimated total e-waste to be around 50 million tons.

This dissolvable printed circuit board is a step towards creating highly recyclable electronic items which will help reduce e-waste and avoid the release of hazardous chemicals that typically takes place during the disposal process.

National Physical Laboratory