How to fight the bad impact of battery recycling
The biggest danger facing the world today is climate change. The transition towards the climate-neutral United States requires fundamental changes in the way we generate and use energy. If batteries can be made more sustainable, secure, ultra-high-performing and affordable then they will be real enablers. It will accelerate the shift towards sustainable and smart mobility. Battery recycling will provide clean, affordable and secure energy mobilizing the industry for a clean and circular economy. All of these are significant elements of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
In other words, batteries are a crucial technology for combating carbon dioxide emissions from the transport, power and industrial sectors. However, in order to achieve our sustainability objectives, batteries must demonstrate ultra-high performance beyond their capabilities today. Ultra-high performance involves theoretical limits of energy and power performance, excellent life and reliability, and improved safety and environmental sustainability. In addition, to be commercially successful, these batteries must support scalability that allows large-scale production to be cost-effective.
What is Battery Recycling?
The process of recycling used batteries from different sources is battery recycling and thereby preventing them from entering municipal waste and landfills for disposal. Almost all household batteries, mobile phone battery packs, power tools, laptops and remote control units and car batteries can be recycled.
Why is it bad to put the batteries into the landfill?
Batteries are not biodegradable. They consist of several toxic and hazardous metals and heavy metals such as acid, lead, nickel, lithium, cadmium, alkaline, mercury and nickel-metal hydride. If they enter landfills, they may contaminate soil or underground and surface water supplies. Upon incineration, batteries release these metals into the environment along with the ash formed during the process. Battery recycling prevents the degradation of the environment and potential health hazards caused by disposing of batteries.
Batteries are manufactured from a variety of chemical compositions and materials. Each type of battery has a particular method of recycling. As a result, a significant element of battery recycling is the sorting of batteries based on their chemical composition.
Types of Battery:
A battery consists of heavy metals such as Nickel, Cobalt, Lithium react with chemicals to produce battery’s power.
- Alkaline Batteries-AAAA,AAA,AA,9V,C,D and lantern batteries
- Mercury Batteries which are banned in many countries.
- Lead batteries which have the ability to supply high surge currents.
- Lithium batteries can produce twice the voltage of an alkaline batteries
- Lithium-Ion batteries are rechargeable which is most popular in consumer electronics.
- Silver oxide is a long-life battery mostly used in the camera, watch batteries
- Nickel-Cadmium NiCd is a rechargeable battery mostly used in cellphones
- Nickel metal hydride is a rechargeable battery. Compared to rechargeable NiCd batteries, NiMH batteries have a higher energy density by volume and weight.
There are many innovations happening around the globe in chemical composition inside the batteries. The research is also underway in biodegradable batteries that would be zero percent toxic to the soil environment. Thus, battery recycling is equally important like plastic recycling.
Innovative plant-based batteries
Batteries can take about 100 years to decompose, and research at Texas A&M University found that only about 5 % of lithium-ion cells are recycled. A biodegradable battery could make it more environmentally friendly.
Texas A&M researchers in August 2019 announced that they had built a battery that used polypeptides(Chains of amino acids that are the basic building blocks of proteins) as opposed to metal compounds. The team hopes that such technologies will work for wearable sensors and other applications where longevity is less of a concern.
1.Eco-friendly Batteries using Aloe Vera wins award from Schneider Electric company
Nimisha Varma and Naveen Suman, a co-founder of Aloe e-Cell company in India have created the world’s first 100% eco-friendly, non-hazardous, AA size 1.5-volt battery using aloe vera. These aloe vera batteries are an alternative to the deadly hazardous dry cell batteries. We have been using these batteries since ages in our remote controls, clocks, toys, flashlights etc. The best part is that these batteries are 10% cheaper and 1.5 times more durable than existing batteries.
2. Plants could make batteries greener
The conversion of plant biomass into a material called “porous carbon” is one of the most promising approaches towards sustainable energy storage devices. This is a form of carbon that can be manufactured with a range of useful electrochemical properties into three-dimensional ordered “nanostructures”. Small quantities of other atoms or chemical groups can be strategically integrated into porous carbon nanostructures to create composites that can become electrodes or conducting materials for rechargeable batteries or capacitors.
3. Organic Battery for almost every plant for renewable energy
Scientists at the University of Southern California have developed an organic battery that does not contain metals or toxic materials and can be used in conjunction with power plants. Much cheaper than lithium-ion batteries. Sri Narayan, professor of chemistry at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, said that the batteries last about 5,000 recharging cycles, giving them an estimated 15-year life span. That’s 500% more enduring than comparable lithium-ion technology.
Narayan and his team use oxidized organic compounds that are commonly found in plants, fungi, animals and bacteria. These compounds are natural energy-producing chemicals used by animals for respiration and plants for photosynthesis. They are referred to as quinones and developed by the USC team In the future, the team believes that carbon dioxide will be the source of the quinones. Quinones are present in plants, fungi, bacteria and certain animals and are involved in photosynthesis and cellular respiration. At present,from naturally occuring hydrocarbons, the quinones required for the batteries are manufactured. In the future, there is a possibility to extract them from carbon dioxide.
4. Vanilla used to create eco-friendly batteries
TU Graz researchers have discovered a way to turn vanillin into a redox-active liquid battery electrolyte material. This is a step in the right direction towards eco-friendly and sustainable energy storage.
By replacing the core element with vanilla,the team established environmentally friendly redox flow batteries. It is a commonly used flavor compound and one of the few fine lignin-based chemicals. Lignin is a class of complex organic polymers which, in the support tissues of vascular plants and some algae,form key structural materials. The liquid electrolytes typically used in the manufacture of redox batteries are made of environmentally harmful heavy metals and rare earth elements.
The team refined lignin into vanilla and then into a redox-active material using mild green chemistry. This means that it is not toxic or those costly metal catalysts are not used. This process can be done at room temperature and using common household chemicals.
5. Cheap, sustainable battery made from tree bark tannins
In red wine and tea,tannins may be best known for their presence . But for the first time in a new study, researchers have shown that tannins from tree bark can also serve as a battery for cathode materials. As the tree bark is about 15% tannins by weight, the tannins are naturally abundant. This is one factor that makes them a promising material for the design of sustainable, low-cost, metal-free, high-performance batteries.
The greatest advantage of the use of renewable polymer tannin is that nature provides an immense amount of tannin at minimal cost and effort that can be extracted from underused bark. Researchers have shown that a type of tannin called “ellagitannin” extracted from the bark of a chestnut tree can be used to manufacture battery cathodes for batteries with excellent overall performance, including high capacitance and high energy density.
Battery recycling process
The recycling of batteries helps to reduce the number of batteries that are disposed of as urban solid waste. It is the best approach to the end-of-life management of spent batteries, mainly for environmental reasons, but also for economic reasons and resource conservation. Battery recycling plants require battery sorting according to their chemistry. Before the batteries arrive at the recycling plant,Some sorting must be done. Nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal hydride, lithium-ion, and lead-acid batteries are placed in designated boxes at the collection point. Battery recyclers claim that recycling would be profitable if a steady stream of batteries sorted by chemistry were made available at no cost. But preparation and transportation add to the cost.
The recycling process begins with the removal of fuel materials, such as plastic insulation, with a gas-fired thermal oxidizer. Gases from the thermal oxidizer are sent to the plant’s scrubber, where they are neutralized to eliminate the contaminants. The process leaves clean, naked cells that contain valuable metal content. Then the cells are cut into small pieces that are heated until the metal liquefies. Non-metallic substances are burned, leaving a black slag on the top, which is removed with a slag arm. According the their weight,the various alloys settle and are skimmed off as cream from raw milk.
Li-ion batteries are currently being reprocessed through pyrolysis (heat treatment) with the metal content as primary recovery. Zinc-carbon and/or air and alkaline-manganese batteries can be reprocessed using a variety of techniques to recover metal content, including smelting and other thermal-metallurgical processes (particularly zinc). The method of processing involves purification and separation by hydrometallurgy after physical pretreatment. Hydrometallurgical processing involves dissolution and selectively separation of the spent lithium-ion batteries from the leach liquor, which is then purified to obtain the precious metals required. Through crushing and shredding, the usual pretreatment operations in hydrometallurgical processing, the materials are easily liberated. Most processing plants, therefore, use a combination of hydrometallurgical and mechanical processing.
Chemical treatment process (hydro-process). The chemical recycling process applied to lithium batteries.
Physical separation and purification of cathode active material. For mechanical crushing and shredding, discharged Li-ion batteries are positioned in an inert, dry atmosphere. This eliminates the effect of internal short circuits when in contact with oxygen and prevents the sensitivity of materials to water vapour that will hydrolyze the electrolyte.
Top battery recycling companies in the United States
- My Battery Recyclers,New York
- Retriev Technologies,Ohio
- Battery Recycling Made Easy, Georgia
- Clean Earth, Multiple locations covering almost all states in the U.S.
- Battery Solutions, Michigan and Arizona
- Recell centres,Chicago
- Veolia,Boston and Multiple location in U.S.
- NLR, East Windsor, Connecticut
- Arion Global, California