Sustainability and Lithium batteries

In the late 1970s, a team of global scientists began developing what would become the lithium-ion battery, a type of rechargeable battery that would eventually power everything from portable electronics to electric vehicles and mobile phones. a history of the lithium battery makes a short interesting read.

Today they power many different devices, from smart phones, laptops, electric-cars, solar panels to power grids.  Their life span is about 10 years. Surging demands for electric vehicles have pushed up the price and demand. It is estimated that in 2040 there will be 7 million tonnes per year of used Li batteries.

Unlike their predecessors – lead batteries, they cannot be easily recycled.  Li batteries are made up of lots of different parts that could explode if not disassembled carefully.  Mining the required minerals has a huge environmental cost.  

Iceland and Paraguay stand out from the rest of the world by being almost 100% reliant on renewable energy. The two major forms of renewable energy – solar and wind power – considered intermittent resources, as the sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing.  

Lithium is currently produced from hard rock or brine mines. Australia is the world’s biggest supplier, with production from hard rock mines.  Argentina, Chile and China is mainly producing it from salt lakes. Mining the various metals required requires vast natural resources and has been linked to declining vegetation.

Most of the components of Li-ion batteries are valuable, and it’s quite feasible, technically and economically, to recycle them. Several auto OEMs, research institutes and other industry players around the world are developing systems to do just that.

Scientists are working on ways to reduce this impact and make their recycling safer and an easier process. Developing robotic disassembly;  making more sustainable batteries, or reducing the materials needed to build them and thereby reduce the energy expenditure.  Developments into zinc-manganese oxide batteries are being considered for large scale energy storage such as electricity grids.  Lithion recycling claim a 95% recycling of battery components to make new LI batteries.

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Star Wars fan especially of Yoda.

2 thoughts on “Sustainability and Lithium batteries”

  1. More ideas being tried. Since the industrial revolution, about half of the UK’s slag – a stony by-product of making iron and steel – has been used as a construction material. But the other half is an unseen and unused potential resource, with around 180 million tonnes.

    As an alkaline material, slag can react with CO2 in the air and lock it away in solid minerals, offering a long-term form of carbon storage.

    Carbon capture and storage (CCS) involves capturing, transporting and storing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel power stations, energy intensive industries, and gas fields by injecting the captured greenhouse gases back into the ground

    Read more:


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