An eco-friendly way to recycle 98% of battery metals in 20 minutes

Given how many batteries will need to be recycled in our very near future, this seems like good news.

An eco-friendly way to recycle 98% of battery metals in 20 minutes
Photo by yasin hemmati / Unsplash

Researchers at Rice University in the US say they've figured out an cost-efficient and more environmentally friendly method for recycling batteries that allows them to recoup more than 98% of the metals in the battery in just 20 minutes as opposed to the current timeframe of 24 hours.

This new recycling process involves a "Joule-heating technique" that flash heats the combined cathode and anode waste to temperatures above 2100 degrees Kelvin in mere seconds and makes it easier for scientists to extract the valuable metals from the mixed battery waste. The process also uses much less water and hydrochloric acid in the process, reducing the environmental impact and the amount of carbon dioxide created in the process.

Given the number of batteries that will need to be recycled in our very near future and likely for decades to come – and how much valuable metal is in those batteries – this sounds like much-needed research. Hopefully the method these scientists have come up with is scalable and contributes to a massive upsurge in battery recycling.

I do have some questions, though... For example, what power source is being used to heat the battery waste to 2100 degrees Kelvin? Can this easily be done with renewable energy? Also: the article makes this process sound more environmentally friendly than current battery recycling practices, but is it environmentally enough? Can the CO2 emissions produced be captured or eliminated altogether?

Inquiring minds want to know!

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