Characterisation technology turns waste streams virtually inside out

Today many recycling companies struggle with the value assessment of complex material streams. The main issues are the costly and labour-intensive sampling procedures and subsequent chemical analysis, leading to long waiting times (often several weeks) and the associated financial uncertainty. 

To counter this, VITO initiated the development of an in-line characterisation technology. This way, heterogenous and complex material streams can be assessed completely – eliminating the need for subsampling – and mass-balances can be produced ‘on-the-fly’. In fact, for each material particle a ‘digital twin’ is created which can be further assessed in a virtual way. In this technology, the heterogenous waste particles are dispersed on a conveyor belt as a mono-layer and scanned using X-rays, a 3D laser scanner and a colour camera. Using artificial intelligence, the device recognizes the individual particles and assigns several important physical parameters: size, mass, shape, material, texture, etc.

The technology has been successfully scaled up from ‘scan-the-bucket’ to ‘scan-the-truck’ as was recently demonstrated during 2 large-scale demo events. For different metal-rich material streams, VITO was able to showcase the industrial relevance of the new characterisation technology. To take on this challenge, VITO partnered with Ghent University and two industrial partners, Suez and Umicore, in the CHARAMBA project. This project has been supported by the European funds from the EIT Raw Materials, which aims to support good ideas and innovations and bring them to the market.

After project completion, VITO wishes to introduce the innovative technology as a service to the market and subsequently launch a spin-off company selling tailor-made in-line characterisation devices to several players in the metal recycling market.

Interested in learning more about the technology?
Contact Kris Broos ( kris.broos@vito.be ) or visit the VITO website

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