Megan O’Connor, a Yale Visiting Assistant Researcher in Plata’s lab, was named one of three finalists for the Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development. The award recognizes innovative technologies and methods developed by university students that can promote sustainable and responsible development.
O’Connor is developing a novel technology that uses filters to extract rare earth elements and specialty metals out of electronic waste for their reuse. Recycling these materials is critical because advanced electronics increasingly rely on yttrium, osmium, and indium and other specialty metals and rare earth elements. Also, these devices tend to have short lifetimes and recycling rates. In addition, this technology would reduce the need for mining rare earth minerals in politically unstable or environmentally undesirable locations and reduce emissions of toxic elements or nascent industrial minerals that have unknown toxicities or environmental impacts