Lithium-Ion Batteries Help Power Civilizations, But How Can They Be Recycled?


More and more civilization runs on a lithium ion batteries tiny ones in our phones huge ones in our electric cars those batteries break or wear out they mostly get thrown away now scientists are trying to figure out how to recycle them NPR's Dan Charles has the story to understand why a lithium ion batteries are so hard to recycle let's take a look at how they're put together with Linda gains a scientist at Argonne national laboratory outside of Chicago each cell is a series of sandwiches the outer layers of the sandwich are metal foil inside them are thin layers of powder one of them is the really valuable one made of things like lithium and cobalt and nickel and these sandwiches are either rolled out for folded up into a tight package and then the electrolyte liquid is forced to end and the whole thing is put in a little can that's an individual cell dozens or even hundreds of cells get stacked together into modules and a bunch of modules go into the battery pack of a car this whole sealed assemblies almost impossible to take apart which would be risky anyway remember the stories of batteries catching fire it is a high voltage device and you would not want to be poking around in it with your screwdriver when they stop working though it's wasteful and dangerous to just throw them in the trash a few lithium ion batteries go into a crude kind of recycling they get chopped up and go into a furnace the nickel and cobalt survive but almost everything else gets burned away including the lithium and aluminum I kind of find that offensive you know you spend all that energy to make this really neat material on you just burning and as a fuel so all over the world teams of researchers are trying to invent something better to handle the big lithium ion batteries that may power hundreds of millions of climate saving electric cars down the road here's govern Harper from the university of Birmingham in England we need to really make sure that we don't crack a waste management problem with electric vehicles wed Manson's about trees accumulate and we don't know what to do with them Harper and his colleagues are building robots which they hope can take over the dangerous job of cutting batteries open and collecting what's inside in the U. S. a whole group of labs including Linda gains as group at argon is trying to figure out if you just chop up the batteries can you find a way to filter that mass and recover the valuable stuff the medals in the high priced powder at the heart of the battery gains admits it'll be difficult it was easy it wouldn't be interesting and you can kind of imagine it working yeah I can they have a goal within three years the one of a process in hand for recycling lithium ion batteries one the companies will use because it's profitable then Charles NPR news

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