Medical use for waste television screens

July 13, 2009

Waste material from discarded televisions could be recycled and used in medicine, according to new research by scientists at the University of York.

The chemical compound polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA) is widely used in industry and is a key element of television sets with liquid crystal display (LCD) technology. When these sets are thrown away, the LCD panels are usually incinerated or buried in landfill sites.

Researchers have now found a way of recovering PVA from television screens and transforming it into a substance suitable for use in tissue scaffolds which help parts of the body regenerate. It can also be used in pills and dressings that are designed to deliver drugs to particular parts of the body.

The research is by five academics in the University's Department of Chemistry, which is home to the York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence and the York Liquid Crystal Group, and is published in the journal Green Chemistry.

Professor James Clark, director of the York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence and one of the author's of the research, said: "With 2.5 billion liquid crystal displays already reaching the end of their life, and LCD televisions proving hugely popular with consumers, that is a huge amount of potential waste to manage.

"It is important that we find ways of recycling as many elements of LCDs as possible so we don't simply have to resort to burying and burning them."

The researchers have developed a technique where recovered material is heated in water in a microwave and washed in ethanol to produced "expanded PVA".

One of this material's key properties is that it does not provoke a response from the human immune system, making it suitable for use in biomedicine.

The latest research is a development from a long term project, funded by the Technology Strategy Board, examining the problems posed by LCD waste in which the University of York is a partner.
-end-
Notes to editors:

The research "Expanding the potential for waste polyvinyl-alcohol" can be found on the Green Chemistry website at http://www.rsc.org/Publishing/Journals/GC/Index.asp.

The University was chosen by the UK Government to be part of a consortium to examine ways of recycling liquid displays in 2006. http://www.york.ac.uk/admin/presspr/pressreleases/recyclelcd.htm

The York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence is based in the Department of Chemistry which was ranked among the top ten in the country in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. More information about the department and the Centre can be found at http://www.york.ac.uk/chemistry/.

University of York

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