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Recycling batteries

December 23, 2020 December 2020 No Comments

A significant amount of research is being done to prevent batteries becoming the next plastic waste crisis. A battery dies because the electrode loses functionality. Batteries can be smelted down – but this leaves a huge carbon footprint.

The Ministry of Transport predicts New Zealand will have 1.9 million EVs by 2039/40 and this presents a huge need to find better ways of recycling batteries. Peng Cao, a MacDiarmid Institute researcher and associate professor in chemical and materials engineering at the University of Auckland. says smelting and extracting valuable metals is viable only for the first generation of batteries, as the second generation have much less or even no cobalt and are therefore less valuable.

“Considering that car batteries have an 8-10 year lifespan, with EVs increasing in number so much, in ten years’ time this will be a problem,” says Cao. “Car batteries will become another plastics disaster if we don’t start working right now.”

Cao is part of a Vector Energy-led battery innovation working group of New Zealand companies and researchers. Based at the University of Auckland, he is working at the nanoscale to upcycle lithium from cathodes, and refurbishing the electrode with lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese.

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