German scientists looking at recycling the tiniest items


Scientists at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute are working on techniques to recycle materials at a microscopic level.

In its Molecular Sorting for Resource Efficiency project, Fraunhofer experts are looking at how materials can be extracted and recycled at even the molecular level.


Franuhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT scientist Professor Jörg Woidasky said: “The separation processes take place initially at the smallest level required i.e. we go down to the molecular or even atomic levels.”

One example of this is its research into extracting precious or rare earth metals using microorganisms.

It is also looking into techniques to remove valuable colourless glass from old plate glass that could be used in photovoltaics, fibre-optic cables and displays.

Other techniques are being investigated using molecular sorting to recycle wood by removing harmful substances such as preservatives.

While the Institute is also looking into ways to recycle concrete at this molecular level as well as extracting germanium, zinc and phosphorous from incinerator flues.