Freaky plastic aids phone recycling

Cook it and it keeps its shape

The reputation of computer and mobile phone industries for being environmentally unfriendly is about to change.

A group of engineers at Brunel University has developed a new "shape memory polymer" that will retain its shape even after heating and re-moulding. This means it will be possible to make phone casings that are easily disassembled, one of the major blocks to simple recycling of the valuable components.

A report in the Daily Telegraph said the group has developed a prototype mobile phone using the new polymer. Different pieces will change shape at different temperatures, so that as the phone is gradually heated the casing will "pop" off, exposing the insides.

The engineers hope that by making it less labour intensive to access the recyclable parts, it will become a more commercially viable option. European legislation has been proposed that would make it compulsory for manufacturers to recycle rather than dump electrical and electronic parts.

It will be on display at the Science Museum in London from 3 July.

The boffins say that the phones will only fall apart in extreme heat - so there is no need to worry if you leave your phone out in the sun. They are also being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to produce more gadgets. ®

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