THE BATTERIES THAT WILL MOVE THE WORLD

Enormous growth in the daily use of mobile devices means that Spaniards now consume 500 million batteries per year -around 8,500 tonnes-. But behind this dependence on the different devices that require energy to work, which is an inherent part of the hyper-connected society, lies a problem that is not so obvious…what to do with the volume of used batteries generated.

40 years ago, American John Goodenough invented the lithium  ion battery, which powers laptops, smartphones and many other electronic devices. Since then, numerous companies have joined

the race to develop powerful, safe, long-life power units. This race has intensified in recent years due to the need to find alternatives to lithium, the global supply of which is monopolised by just three countries: Chile, Argentina and Australia. For this reason, experiments are ongoing to investigate the energy storage and transmission potential of all types of metals and chemical elements.

Amongst the latest innovative developments, we can find rechargeable calcium or fluoride batteries with liquid components, which are suitable for use in mobile devices due to their greater energy density and the fact that they are cheaper than lithium ion batteries. And the automotive industry is looking into hydrogen to address the expected dramatic rise in the demand for electric vehicles.

This is the future of energy storage but the pace of innovation should not prevent us from being aware of the “flip side” of this progress, i.e., the environmental challenge associated with the generation of such a large volume of waste batteries, with such varied compositions.

Eucobat, the association that brings together the most important collective systems for battery recycling in Europe, once again drew attention to this challenge last April, during its Annual General Meeting in Seville. This event was hosted by the Ecopilas foundation, a founder member of Eucobat and its only Spanish representative.

 

Foto Pepe 2018 (1)

José Pérez, President of Ecopilas

Published in: Nº60 FuturENVIRO May 2019