Designing batteries for easier recycling could avert a looming e-waste crisis

Risky business [image credit: safetysource.co.nz]
It’s the climate propaganda that’s mounting, not the concern about it, judging by opinion polls that put climate change last as an issue. But recycling of lithium batteries is considered to be uneconomic and can be dangerous.
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As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels, asserts The Conversation (via TechXplore).

Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing.

And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.

These trends, coupled with a growing volume of battery-powered phones, watches, laptops, wearable devices and other consumer technologies, leave us wondering: What will happen to all these batteries once they wear out?

Despite overwhelming enthusiasm for cheaper, more powerful and energy-dense batteries, manufacturers have paid comparatively little attention to making these essential devices more sustainable. In the U.S. only about 5% of lithium-ion batteries—the technology of choice for electric vehicles and many high-tech products – are actually recycled.

As sales of electric vehicles and tech gadgets continue to grow, it is unclear who should handle hazardous battery waste or how to do it.

As engineers who work on designing advanced materials, including batteries, we believe it is important to think about these issues now.

Creating pathways for battery manufacturers to build sustainable production-to-recycling manufacturing processes that meet both consumer and environmental standards can reduce the likelihood of a battery waste crisis in the coming decade.

Hazardous contents

Batteries pose more complex recycling and disposal challenges than metals, plastics and paper products because they contain many chemical components that are both toxic and difficult to separate.

Some types of widely used batteries—notably, lead-acid batteries in gasoline-powered cars—have relatively simple chemistries and designs that make them straightforward to recycle.

The common non-rechargeable alkaline or water-based batteries that power devices like flashlights and smoke alarms can be disposed directly in landfills.

However, today’s lithium-ion batteries are highly sophisticated and not designed for recyclability. They contain hazardous chemicals, such as toxic lithium salts and transition metals, that can damage the environment and leach into water sources.

Used lithium batteries also contain embedded electrochemical energy—a small amount of charge left over after they can no longer power devices—which can cause fires or explosions, or harm people that handle them.

Full article here.

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October 23, 2020 at 06:51AM

Author: uwe.roland.gross

Don`t worry there is no significant man- made global warming. The global warming scare is not driven by science but driven by politics. Al Gore and the UN are dead wrong on climate fears. The IPCC process is a perversion of science.