Fruit Peel Turns Old Batteries Into New Ones

November 2, 2021

Scientists led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a novel method of using fruit shell waste to extract and reuse precious metals from used lithium-ion batteries to create new batteries.

The team demonstrated their concept using orange peel, which efficiently recovered precious metals from battery waste, then made functional batteries from these recovered metals, creating minimal waste in the process.

The scientists say their waste-to-resources approach addresses both food waste and electronics waste, supporting the development of a zero-waste circular economy, in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible.

It is estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food waste and 50 million tons of electronic waste are generated worldwide each year.

Spent batteries are conventionally treated with extreme heat (over 500 ° C) to melt valuable metals, which emit dangerous toxic gases. Alternative approaches are being explored that use strong acid solutions or weaker acid solutions with hydrogen peroxide to extract the metals, but still produce secondary contaminants that pose health and safety risks, or rely on hydrogen peroxide, which is dangerous. and unstable.

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A low-cost battery recycling

With industrial approaches to recycling battery waste generating harmful pollutants, hydrometallurgy, which uses water as a solvent for extraction, is increasingly being explored as a possible alternative.

This process involves, first, the crushing and crushing of used batteries to form a crushed material called black mass. The researchers then extract valuable metals from the black mass by dissolving it in a mixture of strong or weak acids plus other chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide under heat, before allowing the metals to precipitate.

The NTU team found that the combination of orange peel that has been oven-dried and ground into powder, and citric acid, a weak organic acid found in citrus fruits, can accomplish the same goal.

In laboratory experiments, the team found that their approach successfully extracted about 90% of the cobalt, lithium, nickel, and manganese from depleted lithium-ion batteries, an efficiency comparable to that of the approach using peroxide. It is important to note that the solid waste generated by this process is not considered toxic, suggesting that this method is environmentally sound.

More research is underway to optimize the charge and discharge cycle performance of these new batteries made from reclaimed materials.

This suggests that this new technology is “practically feasible for recycling used lithium-ion batteries in the industrial sense,” the researchers said.

Dr. Loony Davis5
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Born and raised in Brussels in an English family, I have always lived in a multicultural environment. After several work experiences in marketing and communication, I came to Smart Water Magazine, which I describe as the most exciting challenge of my career.
I am a person with great restlessness and curiosity to learn, discover what I do not know, as well as reinvent myself daily, someone who is curious about life and wants to know. I enjoy sharing knowledge.
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