Medical use for old TVs

Waste material from discarded televisions could be recycled and used in medicine, according to researchers 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.


But now, the UK researchers have found a way of recovering PVA from television screens and transforming it into a substance that could be suitable for use in tissue scaffolds, which help parts of the body regenerate.


It could also be used in pills and dressings that are designed to deliver drugs to particular parts of the body.


The research was carried out by 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.


Prof James Clark, director of the York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, said: ‘With 2.5 billion liquid crystal displays already reaching the end of their life, and LCD televisions proving hugely popular with consumers, this 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’ technique involves heating the recovered material in water in a microwave and washing it in ethanol to produce expanded PVA.


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