Valorization of e-waste via supercritical water technology: An approach for obsolete mobile phones

Chemosphere. 2023 Oct:337:139343. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2023.139343. Epub 2023 Jun 27.


The improper handling of electronic waste has not only severe environmental impacts but also results in the loss of high economic potential. To address this issue, the use of supercritical water (ScW) technology for the eco-friendly processing of waste printed circuit boards (WPCBs) obtained from obsolete mobile phones has been explored in this study. The WPCBs were characterized via MP-AES, WDXRF, TG/DTA, CHNS elemental analysis, SEM and XRD. A L9 Taguchi orthogonal array design was employed to evaluate the impact of four independent variables on the organic degradation rate (ODR) of the system. After optimization, an ODR of 98.4% was achieved at a temperature of 600 °C, a reaction time of 50 min, a flowrate of 7 mL min-1, and the absence of an oxidizing agent. The removal of the organic content from the WPCBs resulted in an increase in the metal concentration, with up to 92.6% of the metal content being efficiently recovered. During the ScW process, the decomposition by-products were continuously removed from the reactor system through the liquid or gaseous outputs. The liquid fraction, which was composed of phenol derivatives, was treated using the same experimental apparatus, achieving a total organic carbon reduction of 99.2% at 600 °C using H2O2 as the oxidizing agent. The gaseous fraction was found to contain hydrogen, methane, CO2, and CO as the major components. Finally, the addition of co-solvents, namely ethanol and glycerol, enhanced the production of combustible gases during the ScW processing of WPCBs.

Keywords: Depolymerization; Metal recovery; Mobile phone; Supercritical water; Urban mining; e-waste.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone*
  • Electronic Waste* / analysis
  • Gases / analysis
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / analysis
  • Oxidants
  • Recycling / methods
  • Water / analysis


  • Water
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Gases
  • Oxidants