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Scientists to Build AI-Powered Robot for E-Waste Recycling

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robot at e-waste recycling bins, illustration

AI robots could streamline e-waste recycling and the recovery of materials from dead smartphones.

Could artificially intelligent robots streamline the e-waste recycling process, making the recovery and reuse of parts from dead consumer electronics more economical? The idea received a boost in December when the U.S. Department of Energy awarded a $445,000 grant to researchers from Idaho National Laboratory, the University at Buffalo, Iowa State University, and e-waste recycler Sunnking to develop software that allows robots to automatically identify different types of smartphones on a recycling line, remove the batteries, and harvest various high-value components.

By the end of the two-year research project, the team hopes to field-test an early version of its technology at one of Sunnking's facilities.

Applying robotics and AI to e-waste recycling is a fairly new idea. Apple's line of recycling robots only work on iPhones. The team's research project is examining if a jack-of-all-trades robot that could be installed at an e-waste facility processing dozens of different models of smartphones is a possibility.

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