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Chinese researchers report lead acid battery breakthrough

The Southern University of Science and Technology in China has developed an environmentally friendly method to turn lead from used lead acid batteries into photodetectors operating in the UV-visible band.

The innovative process extracts lead from discarded lead acid batteries, which is used to synthesise lead(II)iodide (PbI2) microcrystals suitable for use in photodetectors. The recycled PbImicrocrystals exhibit the quality and purity levels necessary for making photodetectors.

‘They can be used to make photodetectors with excellent stability, repeatability and fast response speeds,’ says research team leader Dr. Longxing Su. He asserts his team has found a far more efficient strategy to produce PbI2 from the lead paste found within lead acid batteries. 

Recovering the lead can be achieved via a one-pot process that requires only inexpensive, easily obtained chemicals and no commercial precursors.

‘We believe this recycling strategy could significantly reduce the lead pollution resulting from waste lead acid batteries, which is important to the environment,’ concludes Su. ‘The photodetectors promote the recycling economy by creating a market for recycled lead. They can be used for a variety of applications including optical communication, chemical analysis and imaging.’

As a next step, the R&D team wants to scale up the process to mass-produce recycled PbI2. Besides benefiting chemical companies, Su believes the breakthrough could also prove useful for making more sustainable solar cells.

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