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A discovery by a team of U.S. researchers: three microscopical fungi can extract metals from exhaust batteries.
Lithium batteries are everywhere, from PCs to smartphones to hybrid and electric cars. Recycling these batteries is now easier thanks to three allies: three microscopical fungi, commonly found in nature, which are allegedly able to extract lithium and cobalt from exhaust accumulators in an ecosustainable way.
The discovery was made by a group of researchers of the University of South Florida, which presented their study results in Philadelphia on occasion of the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (Acs).
The scientists proved that the combined use of three fungi – Aspergillus niger, Penicillium simplicissimum and Penicillium chrysogenum – allows an operation that was always considered too expensive and non sustainable: recovering the precious metals contained in exhaust batteries.
“The idea first came from a student who had experience extracting some metals from waste slag left over from smelting operations – says Jeffrey A. Cunningham, Ph.D., the project’s team leader – We were watching the huge growth in smartphones and all the other products with rechargeable batteries, so we shifted our focus. The demand for lithium is rising rapidly, and it is not sustainable to keep mining new lithium resources”.
The team first dismantles the batteries and pulverises the cathodes. Then, they expose the remaining pulp to the fungi. These naturally generate organic acids, which work to leach out the metals. Thanks to this method, it would be possible to extract up to 85% of the lithium and up to 48% of the cobalt from the cathodes of spent batteries.
The systems currently used to separate lithium, cobalt and other metals require very high temperatures and corrosive chemicals. Many attempts are being made to find a more convenient, efficient and sustainable alternative.
Source: Science Daily