The electric car revolution might be good news for the climate, but what happens to all those used batteries when the vehicles reach the end of their life? Well, they can be eaten.
That’s according to researchers at Coventry University, England. They claim to have identified a battery-munching bacteria that breaks down defunct power banks, recovering all metals.
The process is called bioleaching, and is used by the mining industry to recover valuable metals from ores. Most of the world’s lithium lies under the Atacama Desert in South America, where mining threatens local people and ecosystems. Instead of mining new sources of these metals, why not reuse what’s already out there?
“Lithium-ion batteries are currently recycled at a meagre rate of less than five per cent in the EU,” said the university’s Prof Sebastien Farnaud, who cited high costs and inefficient processes as reasons for the low rate. “Bioleaching can offer a more sustainable and effective solution,” he added.