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‘Cheaper’ way to recycle lead-acid batteries

United Kingdom – Researchers at Cambridge University in the UK have found a revolutionary and much cheaper way to recycle lead-acid batteries, they claim. The process, developed by Dr R. Vasant Kumar and colleagues at the University’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, also uses less energy and produces fewer toxic emissions than current methods.

The technology will be on show this week at the International Secondary Lead Conference in Hyderabad, India. In North America and Europe, more than 95% of batteries are recycled, but in countries such as India, China and Russia, the same infrastructure does not yet exist because currently-adopted recycling methods are only economically viable when large numbers are involved. However, the new process lends itself to being carried out on a much smaller scale.

The conventional process involves dismantling the batteries, melting the spent battery paste at high temperatures, pouring the molten lead into moulds, removing impurities, and then re-melting the lead for use in new batteries. However, the Cambridge approach uses just 8% of the energy required by the conventional recycling process and produces far less toxic sulphur dioxide and lead dust.

Cambridge Enterprise, the University’s commercialisation group, and the Nonferrous Materials Technology Development Centre in Hyderabad, are seeking commercial partners to establish a pilot-scale plant for demonstrating the Cambridge process.

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