By the year 2005, over 450 million computers had been retired from service in the United States. Each of those machines, as well as those discarded hence, hold considerable amounts of hazardous chemicals and poisons that are very detrimental to the environment.
Dr. James Li’s research agenda involves the development of environmentally benign electronics manufacturing. Most printed circuit boards used in a typical computer have high amounts of lead and hazardous chemicals. His goal is to find ways to manufacture boards and other complex electronic gear that will render them harmless at the end of the life cycle of the computer. His goal is to find a way to manufacture items that can easily be disassembled. His goal is to develop procedures that allow companies to increase their profits and protect the environment at the same time.
Dr. Li, currently an Assistant Professor in the Manufacturing Engineering Department, has collaborated with Image Micro Systems, a contractor to Dell Computers, to develop better sustainable manufacturing techniques. With funding from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Li has researched reverse logistics – how materials move back to the manufacturer from customers in such a way as to improve profit and reduce environmental impact. He is currently negotiating another project involving the development of a decision tool for recycling medical waste and hopes for a collaborative project with a company in North Carolina with funding from the National Science Foundation.
Dr. Li’s work illustrates the direct impact UTPA’s researchers have on the daily lives of Americans – and the Valley.