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  • In 2019,  John Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham and

  • Akira Yoshinojointly won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

  • "The discoveries of our laureates have led todramatic change in our society."

  • They invented and developed a technologythat most of us useevery day.

  • Often, without even noticing.

  • It's in our earbudssmartphones, laptop computers,

  • cordless vacuum cleanersandelectric scooters.

  • It's this. The lithium-ion battery.

  • This technology is key to us driving around  without burning fossil fuels.

  • But what does it take to make all these batteries?

  • Whatdowedowiththemoncethey'respent?

  • And why on earth are we playing

  • with LEGO in this video?

  • Let's find out.

  • The automobile hasbrought comfort and  independence to the lives of billions of people. 

  • But guzzling ever-growingamounts of fossil fuelshasalso taken its toll on the climate.

  • "We have an energy crisis." 

  • Thanks to lithium-ion batteries, wemight  now be entering a new era of mobility.

  • Because of their high energy density they're perfect in electric vehicles.

  • Forrelatively tiny package, they pack a big punch.

  • "The lithium-ion battery has really enabled

  • many parts of thedecarbonization."

  • This is Hans Eric Melin.

  • Hefounded a research and consulting firm

  • focusingon lithium-ion batteries.

  • "For everything in mobility,  lithium-ionbatteries,

  • I would say, they have been a key technologyreally.

  • The potential is so big in that sector,

  • we get such a scale in the production

  • and that brings the cost down of the batteries."

  • The global fleet of electric vehicles is predicted to grow immensely over the next decade

  • Fromaround 8 million – to 116 million.

  • This means the demand for lithium-ion batteries

  • will alsoshoot up.

  • And this is where we might run into some problems.

  • "Of course, it has a cost. 

  • Weneed materials to produce the batteries and

  • any extractive industry has an impact

  • on the environment."

  • Lithiumis – asyouprobablyguessed   prettycentraltomaking a lithium-ionbattery

  • About 50 percent of the world's reserve of this alkali metal can be found here,  

  • in the so-called "lithium triangle" across  Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile.

  • Mining it involves pumping saltwater from underground lakes into pools

  • and letting it evaporate – a process that could harm the surrounding soil,

  • drain water supplies and contaminate the air.

  • Alsolithium is finite.

  • A study found we could run into serious trouble by mid-century, if demand keeps growing like this.

  • And then there's cobalt that also goes into lithium-ion batteries.  

  • It's a metal mainly found in   the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  

  • Its mining has often been linked to inhumane working conditions and child labor.

  • People exposed to it have suffered from lung disease or heart problems.

  • "Then you have also the energy that

  • is required to make these batteries.

  • And especially production of cells

  • requires a lot of energy."

  • And thismeans –  CO2 emissions. 

  • How much exactly really depends on the electricity mix of the producing country.

  • But according torecent figures, making justsmall batteryfor a car like this couldcause  

  • more than four tons of CO2.

  • To give you an ideathat's like drivingnew diesel car bought in the EU

  • for about 33,000 kilometers.

  • The good news is that emissions are sinking as battery production becomesmore efficient

  • and we shift towards cleaner energy sources.

  • The bad news is that the batteries are losing capacity over time.

  • So as there are more and more EVs, there will also be more and more spent batteries.

  • How do we deal with them?

  • They should be recollected and selected, recombined and reused

  • in different purposes, in different applications.”

  • This is Ada Kong. She's worked on a report about this for Greenpeace East Asia.

  • The battery that could be used in an electric vehicle is actually very powerful.

  • When they are used forlikefive to eight years, that couldn't really match with the needs

  • of being in a car. They still have enough performance for other functions.”

  • That's rightwe can give spent car batteries a second life.

  • For example, they canbe turned intoenergy  storageforwind or solar. 

  • They could power your next camping trip.

  • And they still have enough juice left to drive a forklift – or a boat.

  • And discarded EV batteries are already used for all these things today.

  • We should extend the value and lifespan of [thesematerials by reusing.

  • And after using up the original function of [thoseproducts, they could be recycled

  • to raw materials and to produce more products.”

  • Let's get out the LEGO to understand how  lithium-ion batteries get recycled

  • It often involves smelting, so essentially heating them until they melt.  

  •  But, this uses lots and lots of energycreates toxic emissions and loses some of the materials.

  • And that's why companies are coming up with new ways to recycle.

  • You want to haveas much as wecanhigh  value materials that have taken a lot of effort

  • to get out of the ground. We want to use those  carefully and as many times as we can.” 

  • This is KunalPhalpher,

  • Chief Commercial Officer at Li-Cycle,

  •  a lithium-ion battery recycling company from Canada.

  • We've basically come up with a process designed specifically for this

  • to have high recovery rates of the material.

  • And the first stage, what we call our spoke, is a mechanical process that breaks down the batteries

  • and separatessome of the fundamental materials.”

  • Very, very simply speaking, this is what happens.

  • The batteries are shredded while being submerged in a nontoxicsolution.

  • This is important becauseit prevents them from catching fire and in the worst case blowing up.

  • Then materials like plastic, copper and aluminumare separated from

  • whatthe industrycallsthe "black mass". This contains the valuable materials

  • like cobalt, nickel, and lithium.

  • The second part of the process is the hub. And this is really a bespoke hydrometallurgy

  • or wet chemistry process to process black mass into battery-grade materials.”

  • What this means is that different chemicals get added to the black mass

  • which leach out different elements.

  • These chemicals either make their way into the final products or are reused in the process

  • so this doesn't actually produce any wastewater.

  • You end up with the black mass separated into its

  • single components, like lithium, cobalt, and nickel.

  • The end goal is that as we pull them out of the batterieswe're putting them back into new batteries

  • And that hasn't been achieved yet at a high scaleThere's elements of it around the world.  

  • But we want to help to continue to drive that forward.”

  • It is hard to keep track exactly how many lithium-ion batteries already get recycled –

  • mainly because they're often exported.

  • But it is already happening more and more, especially in Asia where most of them

  • are also produced.

  • And as volumes of spent batteries grow, it will also make even more

  •  financial sense to recycle them.

  • This is the endin the ideal worldthat we hope  that there's no virgin minerals need to be mined  

  • and all the minerals, materials that they already produced could be reused indefinitely.”

  • Thelithium-ionbattery is already one

  • of the most circular products thereis.

  • It's already reused today, andultimatelyit's  also recycledWe canoptimizethis  

  • better and better. And the more batteries we have

  • on the market, the more obvious that will be.”

  • Now, what do you think? Are lithium-ion batteries

  • really paving the way to a greener, more electric future?

  • Or is there actually another,

  • even more sustainable path?

  • Like building fewer cars altogether?

  • Let us know in the comments and hit subscribe for more videos like this every Friday.”

In 2019,  John Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham and

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B1 US lithium lithium ion ion battery reused recycled

Can you recycle an old EV battery?

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/08
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