For years, batteries have been an omnipresent pain for recyclers. Not only is the material hazardous but they can be difficult and expensive to break apart. And it does not help that the value of these devices continues to plummet as cheaper batteries made with less complex materials begin to appear on the market. However, this could soon change as an Iowa State University researcher is the process of developing technology that could slightly alleviate this issue for electronic recyclers.
The technology in question uses a solvent that can completely dissolve a lithium-ion battery in mere minutes rather than the typical range of hours or days it takes to break them down using traditional heat and chemical practices. The transient battery research is being lead by Reza Montazami, who comments to Waste 360, “We want disintegration to be fast, so it minimizes time and energy required. But we also want to prevent unwanted disintegration to save what’s valuable.”
In order to achieve this, the research team has found a way to control both the rate and temperature at which lithium-ion batteries degrade. The goal is for the technology to someday be used as a means to recycle lithium-ion batteries. The project has received funding from the Department of Defense. But while the team workers towards patenting and commercializing this technology, there are many others with the same goal in mind.
HOBI’s president, Craig Boswell, spoke with Waste 360 and said he is paying close attention to possible evolutions in the industry. “Batteries have some cobalt, nickel and aluminum that we want. But certain products’ designs make it hard to separate the battery from the rest of the device… Usually we can recover the battery, but when you do it thousands and thousands of times, not damaging them is hard. And lithium burns hot and quick, with risk of catching other materials in the stream on fire,” notes Boswell.
Therefore a process like the one Montazami is proposing would be more than welcomed as recyclers are looking to find easier ways to extract batteries in order to not only lower their own costs but to lower the environmental impact.