Gadgets like mobile phones and PDAs are thrown away at the end of their lives - dismantling them is too fiddly. But by 2006, EU legislation will require manufacturers to recycle old equipment.
Joseph Chiodo's team at Brunel University, Surrey, have modified hundreds of gadgets so that they can 'self-disassemble'. Their work complements research by Sony, Motorola and Nokia.
Components are held in fasteners moulded from smart materials that lose all their strength at different 'transformation' temperatures. Products can thus be made to pop apart. In the future, a recycling conveyor belt moving from low to high temperatures could collect components in a fraction of a second.