Electrodynamic fragmentation: selectively separating materials with “flashes” instead of just crushing

Electrodynamic fragmentation
© Fraunhofer IBP

The technology of electrodynamic fragmentation is based on the physical principle that ultra-short electrical pulses (< 500 ns) prefer passing through solids. If, for example, a composite is placed under water between two electrodes and a high voltage is applied (approx. 200 kV), sparks are discharged which tend to pass through the solid along grain surfaces or phase boundaries, thus weakening it mechanically.

Recycling in the true sense of the word instead of downcycling

A subsequent electric breakdown creates a plasma channel that expands abruptly, thus causing an electrical explosion which selectively separates the material into its various constituents. Compared to mechanical methods, with this process only the tensile stress of the material needs to be overcome. EDF technology is therefore a sustainable way of combating resource scarcity, for example by recovering building sand from waste concrete as well as substitute raw materials for making cement.

The cost-effective disruptive technology also serves a large, fast-growing demand: EDF can play a major role in reducing CO2 emissions in the building materials industry because secondary lime is obtained from processing waste old concrete - which in turn is an ideal substitute raw material for cement. In this way, EDF technology makes it possible to fully close material cycles for composites, i.e. to recycle instead of downcycle.

High-quality recycled materials from composites

By selectively separating the constituents of composites and then screening or sorting them, high-quality recycled materials with a high reuse potential can be recovered. When refractory concretes and waste concrete are processed, aggregates such as zirconium oxide, tabular clay and gravel can be recovered in the same quality as the original materials. Consequently, materials can be separated that are impossible to isolate by mechanical methods, for example steel fiber concrete. In ashes from waste incineration plants, the recovery rate of non-ferrous metals like zinc or copper can be increased from the usual 30% to about 80% after processing with EDF.

Our experts are working together with a generator manufacturer who has succeeded in reducing the energy consumed during fragmentation to the same level as that of mechanical processing. This means that the process can already be used cost-effectively today. We are looking forward to hearing from you - get in touch with us!